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SILHOUETTE IN 
DIAMONDS 



j/e of CMrs. Potter Palmer 
By Ishbel Ross 



Here is the first full-scale biography 
of one of America s most elegant and 

O 

energetic women. This diverting book 
goes beyond the legend of her jewels, her 
clothes and her lavish entertaining, and 
brings to light astonishing facts about the 
woman herself: Bertha Honore, the 
lovely Kentucky girl of French and Vir 
ginian ancestry, who married a man 
much older than she the millionaire real 
estate operator who built the Palmer 
House and helped to develop Chicago in 
its early days. 

After the Chicago fire of 1871, Mrs. 
Palmer, then a young bride, showed 
drive, ambition and skill in supporting 
her husband s moves to recoup his lost 
fortune and speed the restoration of the 
shattered city. As a young matron she 
gave her effective touch to philanthropy, 
to women ^ clubs, to reform and labor 
movements. She supported W. T. Stead, 
the British reformer, in his noisy drive 
to clean up Chicago. She championed the 
(continued on back flap) 



No. 9889 A 01060 



5.00 



6022914 

92 Pl7313r 

Ross, Ishbel, 1897- 

Silhouette in diamonds; the 
life of Mrs. Potter Palmer. 
N.Y., Harper [I960] 

2?6p. illus. 



FEB2 


4 1961 


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APR 18 


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SILHOUETTE IN DIAMONDS 



FEB 24 1961. 

31 ^ 

V 
APR 1 8 1961 



Books by Ishbel Ross 

SILHOUETTE IN DIAMONDS 
The Life of Mrs. Potter Palmer 

THE GENERAL S WIFE 

The Life of Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant 

FIRST LADY OF THE SOUTH 

The Life of Mrs. Jefferson Davis 

ANGEL OF THE BATTLEFIELD 

The Life of Clara Barton 

REBEL ROSE 

Life of Rose Neal Greenhow, Confederate Spy 

PROUD KATE 

Portrait of an Ambitious Woman, Kate Chase 

CHILD OF DESTINY 

The Life Story of the First Woman Doctor 

ISLE OF ESCAPE 

FIFTY YEARS A WOMAN 

LADIES OF THE PRESS 

HIGHLAND TWILIGHT 

MARRIAGE IN GOTHAM 

PROMENADE DECK 



SILHOUETTE 
IN DIAMONDS 

Jle Life of "Mrs. Potter Palmer 



BY ISHBEL ROSS 



ILLUSTRATED 



HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK 



SILHOUETTE IN DIAMONDS 

Copyright 1960 by Ishbel Ross 
Printed in the United States of America 

All rights in this book are reserved. No part of the book may be used or 
reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in 
the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For 
information address Harper <& Brothers, 49 East ^rd Street, New York i6 y 
N.Y. 

FIRST EDITION 
I-K 



Library of Congress catalog card number: 60-13443 



Contents 



Acknowledgments ix 

/. A City in Flames i 

2. Merchant Prince 1 6 

3. 77?<? Innkeeper s Wife 37 

4. Mrs. Palmer Invades Europe 58 

5. World s Columbian Exposition 82 
tf. TAe Nation s Hostess 100 
7. Conquest of Newport 125 
5. ^?t Collector 147 
5?. T&e Para Exposition 164 

zo. Edwardian England 190 

77. Chaliapin Sings for Mrs. Palmer 206 

72. Bfl ^ Nature 222 

Noies 255 

Bibliography 263 

269 



6022914 



. > Illustrations 



The following are grouped in a separate section after page 84 

Mrs. Potter Palmer 

Mrs. Henry Hamilton Honors 

Henry Hamilton Honore 

Bertha Mathilde Honore as a young girl 

Ida Honore 

The great fire at Chicago, October 8, 1871 

Panic-stricken citizens rushing past the Sherman 

House 

Mrs. Potter Palmer in 1893 
Potter Palmer in 1868 
The Grant-Honore wedding in Chicago 
Mrs. Potter Palmer with her sister, Mrs. Frederick 

Dent Grant, cmd Julia Grant, Honore Palmer 

and Potter Palmer, Jr. 
Mrs. Palmer with Honore 



<uiii Illustrations 

Mrs. Frederick Dent Grant 

Princess Cantacuzene 

Mrs. Palmer shortly after her husband s death in 
1902 

Tropical Garden on the Roof, Palmer House, 
Chicago 

Tally-Ho going to the Washington Park Derby 
in 1 8 jo 

Woman s Building at the World s Columbian Ex 
position in 1893 

View from the balcony of the Woimiis B tiilding 

Potter Palmer mansion on Lake Shore Drive in 
1890 

Ballroom and picture gallery 

Main gallery 

Library 

Mrs. Potter Palmer, wearing her famous pink 
pearl 

Potter Palmer 

The OaksMrs. Palmer s house at Osprey, Florida 



Acknowledgments 



Since Mrs. Potter Palmer was deeply in 
volved in public as well as social affairs her correspondence 
covered a considerable range and the bulk of her papers are 
now in the Chicago Historical Society. Her official records of 
the World s Columbian Exposition in this collection were a 
valuable source of material for this biography. 

Although some of her personal papers were destroyed and 
others were lost by fire many are still to be found in the Art 
Institute of Chicago, the Newberry Library and the Sarasota 
County Historical Commission. Intimate family records are 
kept in the Chicago offices of the Palmer Florida Realty Com 
pany. Occasional letters are scattered across the country in 
libraries and in historical societies or are privately owned. Art 
catalogues and pamphlets, in addition to the records of leading 
art dealers in New York, London and Paris, give ample evi 
dence of Mrs. Palmer s importance as a collector. 

I am deeply indebted to Mrs. Palmer s son, Honore Palmer, 
for giving me his personal recollections of his mother, and to 
her grandson, Gordon Palmer, for allowing me to explore the 
family papers in the Chicago offices of the Palmer family. 



x Acknowledgments 

Princess Cantacuzene, who traveled in Europe with her aunt 
and saw much of her in Chicago, Newport and Sarasota, gave 
a great deal of time and effort to sharing with me intimate 
recollections of Mrs. Palmer. I am indebted to her for many 
anecdotes and personal touches that serve to throw light on 
the subject of this biography. Major General Ulysses S. Grant, 
III, Mrs. Palmer s nephew, was generous in indicating sources 
of material. 

I am deeply grateful to Daniel Catton Rich, director in 
turn of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Worcester Art 
Museum, for his expert comment on Mrs. Palmer as an art 
collector, and for the time he gave to discussing her life and 
work in general. Charles Durand-Ruel of Paris was good 
enough to supply me with old records of Mrs. Palmer s art trans 
actions in the 1 890 $, when she was building up her collection 
of Impressionist and Barbizon paintings. Benjamin K. Smith, 
art appraiser in Chicago who had many dealings with Mrs. 
Palmer and knew her well, gave me the benefit of his recollec 
tions. William B. Colvin, of the Palmer Florida Realty Com 
pany, and Graham Aldis both gave me special help in Chicago. 

John Mason Brown was kind enough to advise me on Louis 
ville sources and Mrs. Dorothy Thomas Cullen, curator of 
the Filson Club in Louisville, was helpful on details concern 
ing the early history of the Honore family in Kentucky. I am 
indebted to the Convent of the Visitation in Georgetown for 
the school records of Bertha Honore, later Mrs. Potter Palmer. 

Mrs. Doris Davis, director of the Sarasota County Historical 
Commission, and Miss Louise Higel of Sarasota gave me 
valuable aid in rounding up material on the last eight years of 
Mrs. Palmer s life, much of which was passed in Florida. In 
Sarasota I had access to family papers dealing with her farming 
and ranching operations, her attitude to her employees, her 
ambitious plans for land development, and her day-to-day life 
with her family. A number of Sarasotans still have vivid 
memories of Mrs. Palmer and I am indebted to the following 



Acknowledgments xi 

for their personal recollections of her: Mrs. Ralph Caples, 
Mrs. Walter J. Bryan, Dr. Joseph Halton, A. B. Edwards, 
Albert Blackburn, Charles W. Webb, Captain Frank Roberts 
and Benjamin H. Russell. 

In writing this biography I have used the facilities of a num 
ber of libraries and historical societies across the country but I 
should like to cite, in addition to the main Chicago sources, the 
Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, the New 
York Society Library and the Frick Art Reference Library. 
Of scores of persons who have given me assistance I am par 
ticularly indebted to the following individuals: Miss Waltraut 
M. Van der Rohe, art research assistant, Miss Ruth E. Schone- 
man, chief of the Ryerson Library, Wasco Rogula and 
Anselmo Carini, all of the Art Institute of Chicago; Paul M. 
Angle, director, Miss Blanche Jantzen, Manuscript Division, 
and Mrs. Paul M. Rhymer, Curator of Prints, all of the Chi 
cago Historical Society; Mrs. G. L. Woodward and Stanley 
Pergill, Rare Book Room, and Frederick Hall, Newberry 
Library; Dr. Elizabeth G. McPherson and Miss Kate M. Stew 
art of the Manuscript Division, Library of Congress; and Miss 
Sylvia Hilton, Miss Helen Ruskell and other staff members 
of the New York Society Library. 

I. R. 



1 

> A City in Flames 



A brisk wind rustled the withered autumn 
leaves in the garden of Potter Palmer s country house on the 
outskirts of Chicago on the fateful night of October 8, 1871. 
The grass on the lawn was like tinder for it had been one of 
the driest summers in the city s history. Bertha Honore Palmer, 
a bride of twenty-two, was passing a quiet Sunday evening by 
herself in the home she was about to leave to take up quarters 
in the newly finished Palmer House, her husband s wedding 
gift to her. Potter Palmer, millionaire merchant and real estate 
man, had gone east to attend the funeral of one of his sisters in 
upstate New York. It was Bertha s first separation from her 
husband since their marriage fourteen months earlier. 

Soon after nine o clock she became conscious of a yellowish 
glow hanging over the city. She studied the scene with con 
cern. Fires were an everyday occurrence but before long 
she saw that this was no ordinary blaze. Shafts of flame shot 
across the skyline until it seemed as if most of the city were on 
fire. She thought anxiously of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. 
Henry Hamilton Honore, who lived on Michigan Avenue, 
right in the path of the flames, which seemed to leap out in 



2 Silhouette in Diamonds 

different areas, leaving no clue to their focus. It was not until 
some time later that the legend spread of Mrs. Catherine 
O Leary s cow kicking over her kerosene lamp in a De Koven 
Street barn at milking time. But in any event this was where 
the fire began and a dry southwest wind funneled the flames 
to adjoining shacks. Soon homes, shops, churches, factories, 
were going up like matchsticks. The downtown business area 
was quickly enveloped. From the slums to La Salle Street 
devastation prevailed. 

At first Mrs. Palmer had confidence that the new water- 

\ 

works on the North Side would be equal to the situation, but 
when the fire jumped the river and set them ablaze, all hope 
of staying its demoniac course was ended. When she saw that 
things were completely out of control she went into practical 
action with her servants and neighbors. Although at a safe 
distance from the burning city they all began assembling their 
treasures and preparing their houses for the dispossessed. 
Bertha murmured prayers for her family as she busied herself 
around the house. There was no way of reaching them in the 
blazing city. 

By this time the sky was an awesome yellow, streaked with 
vivid columns of crimson where fire flashed out in yet another 
section of the city. There was little smoke because of the 
speed and intensity of the conflagration. Here and there the 
blaze was sharp and clear, illumining the distorted motions of 
a frantic population. The streets were jammed with fleeing 
families, carrying babies, bundles, furniture and armfuls of 
clothes. They ran in all directions, shouting and crying, while 
cinders hit them like stinging hailstones and sparks danced be 
fore their eyes like twinkling stars. Embers seemed to rain 
from the sky. Jets of flame pulverized safes and buildings that 
had been pronounced fireproof. Synthetic granite walls 
seemed to offer little more resistance than wooden shacks. 

The noise was unearthly. To one it sounded like the lake 
on a stormy night. To another the crackling murmur sug- 



A City in Flames 3 

gested an enormous bundle of dry twigs burning. There were 
sharp explosions as barrels of oil and paint were touched off 
by the flames. 

For days and weeks afterward Bertha heard tales of the ter 
rible scenes enacted in the streets that night. One little girl 
with flames licking her long golden hair ran screaming through 
the crowd. But silence followed when a distracted onlooker 
threw a container of liquor over her. It flared up and en 
veloped her in blue flame. Fire touched off the skirt of a 
woman who knelt in the street, praying with her crucifix. Her 
anguished face was long remembered by those who saw her 
and survived. A forgotten canary sang in its gilded cage in a 
hotel window which was brightly lit by the approaching cur 
tain of flame. A bride with half -wrapped wedding presents in 
her arms ran frantically back and forth calling for her hus 
band. Women dragged Saratoga trunks along the sidewalks. 
Wheelbarrows and perambulators were piled high with family 
possessions. 

There were screams and shouts and curses, tears and voice 
less despair. The slum sections tossed up thieves, footpads and 
murderers, who plundered and rioted as the city burned. All 
along Lake Street they ravaged the shops. Liquor ran in the 
gutters and many were drunk. But the most desperate scenes 
were at the bridges, where struggling masses converged while 
fire already licked the foundations and one after another of 
the structures went down. Human beings and horses were 
inextricably mixed in the jam as carriages and teams attempted 
to cross the river. The horses, half mad from the flick of 
cinders and the frantic crowding, trampled men and women. 
Scores of the trapped clung to the guard rails; some wound up 
in the river. The ships drifted like sagging ghosts as sails and 
masts caught fire. The sirens of tugs trying to get through 
added piercing blasts. 

Before many hours had passed Bertha knew that the Palmer 
and Honore fortunes had gone up in flames. Her husband s 



4 Silhouette in Diamonds 

thirty-two fine new buildings on State Street, as well as the 
nearly finished Palmer House, were burned to the ground. 
Honore Block, a magnificent building for its time, put up by 
her father, with walls decorated with colonnades of synthetic 
marble, was in ruins. Most of his other properties were 
burned, too. The Palmer House was one of the first large 
buildings to go, although its fireproof equipment had promised 
protection. Terrified citizens sought safety in its lobby, bring 
ing their valuables with them. But liquor or explosive oils had 
been stored in the cellar by some of the refugees and a terrific 
explosion wrecked the building when the fire reached this 
area. Detonations were so frequent that night that Bertha 
never knew which one signaled the collapse of her wedding 
gift. 

The new Grand Pacific Hotel, with five hundred rooms 
and a vertical elevator connecting all six of its floors, burned 
before it had opened its doors to guests. The glass dome of its 
porte-cochere crashed to the ground with a smashing effect, 
adding another variation to the strange cacophony of the 
night. The Tremont House fared no better after a period of 
panic when the elevator jammed and the screams of women 
trapped upstairs could be heard above the wind, the roar of 
the fire and the shouts in the street. Many had sought shelter 
in this popular hotel and the public rooms were filled with 
people in various stages of undress, screaming, moaning or 
sobbing. The sick lay about on floors and sofas. Some women 
hugged their ball gowns, furs and jewels in their arms as they 
looked frantically for a way of escape. John B. Drake, the 
manager, managed to save the money in his safe and stuffed 
pillowcases with some of the hotel silver. 

The marble seven-story Sherman House shared the fate 
of the other big hotels. Crosby s Opera House dissolved like 
tinder. It was about to reopen with a Theodore Thomas con 
cert. The orchestra leader arrived with his musicians to find 
that his train could not enter the smoldering city. The court- 



A City in Flames 5 

house subsided at three o clock in the morning, its great bell 
pealing weirdly as it crashed to the ground. The watchman 
in the tower had first spread the alarm for the fire that now 
destroyed it. The buildings of the Historical Society and the 
Academy of Sciences were blighted by flames. All but one of 
the banks were gone. The flames skipped madly from point to 
point, leaving whole areas untouched, then consuming others 
with appalling speed. 

The members of the Chicago Club met for a champagne 
breakfast, intent on a defiant toast to their financial ruin. Before 
they could finish, the flames had reached their clubhouse. They 
picked up the red satin sofas from the lobby, took their liquor 
and cigars and moved to the lake front to complete the rite 
they had begun. Friends of the Potter Palmers were in this 
group, since the Chicago Club membership represented the 
wealth of the city. 

Bertha heard later from Marshall Field how he and Levi Z. 
Leiter directed the fight to save their brand-new store. They 
hung wet blankets over all the windows and tried to douse 
the flames with hose sprays. Finally they gave up and moved 
what they could to an old horsecar barn on the South Side. 
Joseph Medill, another friend of the Potter Palmers, strove 
mightily to get out the Tribune, although a scarlet cloud hung 
all night ovei* his plant. With a score of his men he worked 
with water and shovels, drenching and stamping out the flames. 
By morning the press rollers were melting and the basement 
was filled with smoke. He hurried then to a job printing plant 
on the West Side, pushed his men into further action and 
turned out a special fire edition that carried the first challenge 
to rebuild: "In the midst of a calamity without parallel in the 
world s history , looking upon the ashes of thirty years accu 
mulation, the people of this once beautiful city have resolved 
that Chicago Shall Rise Again!" 

And rise again it did, almost from the bleak moment twenty- 
seven hours after the outbreak of the fire when it was declared 



6 Silhouette in Diamonds 

under control. It burned itself out on the bare fields close to 
Lincoln Park, where the tall oaks were already singed and 
charred. The ultimate reckoning was three hundred dead, 
ninety thousand homeless, seventeen thousand buildings de 
stroyed, and property loss of nearly two hundred million 
dollars, or one-third of the wealth of Chicago. It was compared 
to the Great Fire of London. None more terrible had figured 
in American history. 

Bertha joined her family as soon as she could find a convey 
ance to take her to Michigan Avenue. They were all safe but 
badly shaken and weary from hours of vigilance and physical 
labor. Their house was scorched and ruined but not altogether 
demolished. All night long they had carried their possessions 
to the lake front, where hundreds huddled on the sand. Mrs. 
Palmer s descendants today have some statuary, as well as 
J. C. Gorman s painting of Mrs. Honor, all of which went 
through the fire. They were able to save a few of their in 
herited treasures but most of their furnishings were ruined. 

The scene at the beach was one that Bertha never forgot. 
Men and women still ran back and forth with buckets of water 
from the lake, as mattresses and carpets smoldered all around 
them. Children cried for food as each family sat in its own lit 
tle mound of personal property. Mrs. Honore, worn out from 
the night s exertions, relaxed on an Empire chair with its legs 
half embedded in the sand. Her husband was already making 
plans to attend a meeting at which the restoration of the city 
would be discussed. For days afterward homeless families 
squatted on the beach, using charred boards for shelters and 
spreading carpets on the sand. They set up family mirrors 
and used their mattresses to sleep on, living the alfresco life 
until homes were found for them. 

Chicago was still smoldering when Bertha received a tele 
gram from her husband. News of the disaster had reached him 
as he journeyed east. He knew at once what it meant total 
ruin for him, for the Honores, for friends and business asso- 



A City in Flames 7 

ciates. But the immediate suffering to the population was the 
paramount consideration. His message to his wife was to be of 
good cheer, to give all the attention possible to the victims of 
the fire and to take in as many of the homeless as she could. 

This was just what she had already done. She gave refuge 
to the Honores and opened her doors to all who could be 
squeezed in. Her practical instincts came into full play in 
this emergency. She rounded up women and children, fed 
them, found them clothes and shelter. Most of the women she 
knew were equally busy. Louise de Koven Bowen, who lived 
on Michigan Avenue near the Honores and, like Bertha, had 
attended Dearborn Seminary, had forty or fifty refugees sleep 
ing on the floor in her home, which had escaped the fire. 

Palmer hurried back to a scene of devastation. Sadly he 
surveyed the city that he had left only a few days earlier. He 
found Bertha and her family groping around with candles. 
The explosion of the gasworks had left the city in darkness. 
There was also a water famine, because of the ruin of the 
waterworks. His house was filled with strangers as well as 
with members of the Honore family. He and his father-in-law 
talked in the semidarkness. Both men were equally involved. 
The office buildings that Honore had put up on Dearborn 
Street were wiped out, but he had already resumed business 
in a shed and planned to rebuild. 

Palmer was discouraged. All but five per cent of his new 
buildings were burned. His investments had been enormous 
and he had not enough income at the moment to meet his 
taxes. The task of rebuilding was beyond imagination. Both he 
and Cyrus H. McCormick thought briefly of pulling out. 
But Bertha stepped in at this point. "Mr. Palmer, it s the duty 
of every Chicagoan to stay here and help to rebuild this 
stricken city!" she announced decisively. 

Its renascence took time but in the end was something of a 
miracle. Stunned at first, the population picked up the chal 
lenge thrown them by their leading citizens. Rich and poor 



8 Silhouette in Diamonds 

were in much the same plight. S. H. Kerf oot, a real estate man 
whose place had been landscaped with artificial ponds, rustic 
bridges and greenhouses, set up a ramshackle hut and hung 
out a sign: "Everything gone but wife, children and energy." 
He had lost his elaborate home, his office and his fortune. 

Help came fast as the nation s papers spread news of the 
disaster. Carloads of provisions arrived from different areas. 
Merchants in the East extended unheard-of credit. Building 
supplies arrived and barracks were put up for forty thousand 
of the homeless. The sum of four million dollars was raised 
by public subscription within three months. Money came in 
from different parts of the world. The burned-out banks re 
opened for business. Queen Victoria sent books for a new 
public library. Every day Bertha read in the paper of some 
new act of grace. 

Joseph Medill was elected mayor a month after the fire. The 
merchants Field and Leiter, after a loss of three and a half 
million dollars, bought the car barns to which they had fled 
and opened a monster bazaar within two weeks. Bertha was 
one of their first visitors. The hay had been pitched out, the 
oats and harness removed. Flooring and walls were varnished 
and painted. Rough board counters had been set up. Goods 
were rushed from the East and women who had lost all the 
clothes that they owned trooped in to replenish their ward 
robes. Soon the New York Evening Post commented on the 
irony of a "richly robed lady leaning across the counter and 
fingering costly laces where a horse manger had stood." They 
got ample credit but it was a period of austerity all round. In 
less than two years, however, Field and Leiter were back on 
their old site with a much more magnificent building than the 
first. 

Meanwhile, Potter Palmer moved forward with all the pow 
erful drive of which this self -controlled man was capable. His 
credit, always excellent, enabled him to borrow $1,700,000 
from the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company, the 



A City in Flames p 

largest single loan made in the United States up to that time. 
He brought this up to three millions from mortgages and other 
sources, his good reputation serving him at every point. As he 
moved forward others took heart and followed suit. He put 
up larger and better buildings on State Street than those he 
had lost. Foundations were renewed or rebuilt. He started a 
new Palmer House and raced to finish it ahead of the new 
Grand Pacific, which had collapsed in eight minutes during 
the fire. Artificial lights were used to hasten construction oper 
ations by night as well as by day, an innovation at this time. 
He lost the race by a narrow margin but felt that he had built 
a better hotel. 

These were busy days for Bertha. She took the greatest in 
terest in her husband s construction operations and his business 
affairs. By this time she understood his meticulous concern 
for the smallest detail. He seemed to be occupied constantly 
with workmen of the various trades and with the problems 
of getting the right materials. Not satisfied with the local lime 
stone he sent to Vermont for marble. Prices for a time were 
fantastic. He headed a committee that petitioned Congress 
successfully to abolish the duty on imported structural iron. 
He and his father-in-law played leading roles in helping to 
make Chicago a habitable city again and a commercial center 
of the first importance. Three months after the fire the Land 
Owner, a Chicago publication, commented: 

Mr. Palmer ... is now, more than ever before, entitled to the 
esteem of our citizens. . . . With Spartan energy he now calmly 
but firmly commences again, with faith in Chicago undimmshed. 
. . . He is the land man, par excellence, of Chicago. ... A 
pleasant gentleman, a man of unimpeachable integrity, he uses his 
vast means wisely and well, and always for the city of his 
faith. . . . 

From the time of the fire he also had a rare helpmate in his 
wife. The experience she had been through had matured the 



10 Silhouette in Diamonds 

girl he had married and the rebirth of the city had quickened 
them all into phenomenal effort and sacrifice. But Bertha had 
always been bright, calm and ambitious. She was only thirteen 
when Potter Palmer first saw her, moving with grace against 
a background of ancestral French furniture in her father s 
house in Chicago. A mere schoolgirl, she wore a simple white 
muslin dress and black lace mitts. A plain gold ring circled the 
first finger of her left hand and a diamond-patterned belt 
girdled her waist. Her dark hair fell in long strands over her 
shoulders and was looped behind her ears with tiny bows. 

Palmer had watched her all evening, charmed by her looks 
and manners. She was quick and intelligent, dashing and sure 
of herself. Years later he told his son Honore that he had de 
cided that night to make her his bride. He would wait for 
her to grow up. He was then thirty-six, Chicago s richest 
bachelor but a lonely man. His life had been one steady drive 
for success and he had not paused for marriage. From modest 
beginnings in upstate New York he had established the most 
talked-of store in the country, made millions in merchandising 
and real estate, and at the moment was amassing a fresh fortune 
with cotton he had rounded up for the Union Army. 

Although he was not a romantic man Bertha Honor6 struck 
him at once as being a girl of promise whom he could love 
and cherish, one who would be both hostess and wife. He 
knew that the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Honore would be 
schooled in the social graces, finely educated, and disciplined 
in her approach to life. Her great dark eyes, bright and re 
sponsive, also suggested that she would not be dull. Palmer 
was impressed and although he saw little of her until she made 
her debut this first flash of interest developed later into life 
long devotion. Its effect was dynamic, immediate and lasting. 
He had lived consistently according to plan. Each step had 
been taken with foresight. Now he looked to the future with 
the fixed conviction that Bertha Honore would be part of it. 

Potter Palmer was a man of reserve, stockily built, with dark 



A City in Flames 1 1 

brown hair, a high forehead and keen blue eyes that dimmed 
when he lapsed into one of the long silences habitual to him. 
He exhibited a wry sense of humor in the social chitchat of 
the family circle on the night that Bertha first saw him, but 
mostly the talk was of war. The year was 1862 and John 
Wilkes Booth was playing Richard III in McVicker s Theater. 

The Honores were a Southern family of distinguished line 
age who had moved from Louisville to Chicago in 1855. By 
the time Potter Palmer came into Bertha s life they were settled 
in a spacious house, with cupola and pillared porch, fronting 
on Reuben Street and standing in the center of a square. 
Bertha still had fresh recollections of Louisville and the house 
in which she was born on May 22, 1849. She remembered 
the cobbled streets, the trees and flowers, and the river lively 
with craft. Her impressions had the deepened dimensions of 
early childhood the flash of discovery, the intensity of the 
colors, the tremor of butterfly wings and the songs of the birds 
in Jacob s Woods, an enchanted forest close to her home which 
the adult public viewed more prosaically as a public park. 

The same story-book quality invested the six large wooden 
spoons that hung at Kendrick s jewelry shop, known as the 
"House of Spoons." It threw a veil of illusion over the massive 
trees on Fourth Street that all but meshed in an arch overhead, 
and the meadows fringing Daisy Lane along which Bertha 
drove in the Sunday parade of surreys and barouches headed 
for Cave Hill Cemetery, Masses of starry white flowers danced 
by the wayside like dolls in the breeze. Gravely attentive, she 
sat in a stiff pew in the First Christian Church on Sundays. 
There she first sang hymns in public and said her prayers as 
a child. These memories, like the lamplighter passing along 
the street at sundown, the peal of the milkman s bell at dawn, 
the shooting of sparrows at James Guthrie s imposing home 
nearby, all made their impression on little Bertha Honore. 

She accompanied her mother to Madame Ruhl s to buy rib 
bons and laces. She watched J. C. Gorman paint Mrs. Honore s 



12 Silhouette in Diamonds 

portrait. The long, aristocratic face, the wise eyes, the blue 
card case that her mother held in her hand, the black ribbon 
bracelet circling her wrist, the cameo brooch fastened to the 
lace collar of her black dress, took living shape on the canvas, 
to the wonderment of Mrs. Honore s small daughter. Bertha 
chattered with her friends about these events in her home 
and they all shared in the grown-up interest lavished on Jenny 
Lind, who bewitched Louisville with her nightingale voice 
and thin, eerie face. But her rose-colored dress, pink stockings 
and pantalets were of more interest to the little girls who 
heard her than her voice. A never-failing delight to Bertha 
was a visit to her father s shop on Pearl Street. He imported 
hardware and cutlery and always had fascinating wares on 
his shelves. 

But she was only six when her experiences in Louisville 
faded into the sharper outlines of life in Chicago. Her family 
moved there in 1855 and at the time it seemed a big uprooting 
from the familiar. Mr. Honore had talked with enthusiasm of 
the young city since visiting it two years earlier. As he studied 
the prairies stretching to the west and the great lake lapping 
the shore he looked into the future and saw a busy metropolis 
with a mounting population. Chicago already had gaslight. 
The first of its banks was established. The Board of Trade 
was functioning. In a decade the city had grown from a little 
settlement of frame houses hugging the lake front, with prairie 
grass growing in the unpaved streets, to the bustling center 
of the grain and lumber trade in the West, 

Six years before the Honores moved to Chicago Fredrika 
Bremer had pronounced it the most miserable and ugly city 
she had seen in America, resembling a huckstress rather than 
a queen. But she found its people to her liking. They were 
"most agreeable and delightfulgood people, handsome and 
intellectual; people to live with, to grow fond of ... rare 
people." 



A City in Flames 13 

Although the air over Chicago was clouded with dust she 
could see beyond the small log houses floating like little birds 
nests on the ocean to the "prairie hen on the wing, the blue 
sky, the sun of purest gold." 

Six-year-old Bertha was more alive to its picturesque quali 
ties than she was to its squalor. She delighted in the glimpses 
she caught of the lake, dull as pewter on gray days and rippling 
with crimson as the sun set on hot summer nights. The sails of 
many craft swooped back and forth and the steam vessels out 
numbered anything she had known in Louisville. By this time 
the riches of the plains were pouring into Chicagowheat, 
cattle, hogs and garden produce. The grain elevators rose like 
massive blocks against the sky. Thirteen railroad lines were 
operating and the McCormick reapers were already whirling 
on the farms. Nine omnibus routes linked the scattered streets 
together. Drawbridges spanned the river every few blocks. 
There were sixteen newspapers, sixty clergymen, two hundred 
lawyers and the population had reached eighty thousand. Land 
sold on Michigan Avenue for five dollars a square foot and a 
good room at the Briggs House cost two and a half dollars a 
day. 

Chicago was growing up and Bertha s father was one of its 
early expansionists. He bought and subdivided and built and 
improved property. He envisioned driveways, parks and de 
velopments for the boulevard system that girdles Chicago 
today. He invested heavily in real estate even before George 
M. Pullman, a pioneer from New England, began pulling the 
city out of the mud by raising buildings with jackscrews. 

Bertha, by this time attending St. Xavier s Academy, listened 
attentively to her father s talk of the city s growth. He was a 
man of charm and persuasion, an imaginative planner with a 
highly developed community sense. From her earliest child 
hood she was conscious of the world beyond her home. Both 
of her parents had active minds and a zestf ul approach to their 



/4 Silhouette in Diamonds 

new environment. Her mother made the transition from Louis 
ville with the greatest ease and soon drew a strong social circle 
around her. Fellow Kentuckians who had asked Honore to 
invest in land for them moved to the growing city and settled 
around Reuben Street, which later became Ashland Avenue. 
They had spacious houses, with flowering grounds. They 
brought their household treasures and Southern ways into 
this quiet neighborhood and lived as a unit in the community. 

There were six Honore children in all, Ida was a tinier edi 
tion of Bertha, doe-eyed, dark and beguiling in manner. The 
four boys were Adrian, Henry, Nathaniel and Lockwood. 
They were a harmonious family, living with considerable style 
in a menage characteristic of their capable mother, who, before 
her marriage, had been Eliza J. Carr, the daughter of Captain 
John and Mary Dorsey Carr, of Oldham County, Kentucky. 
Through her mother s family Bertha was descended from 
Edward D Arcy (later Dorsey), who settled in Maryland 
in the seventeenth century, built Hockley on the Hold and 
married Sarah Wyatt, of Virginia. Although Bertha had Eng 
lish, Scotch, Irish and Welsh strains in her blood, the dominant 
influence was French. Her great-grandfather on the paternal 
side was Jean Antoine Honore, a Parisian who was an enthu 
siastic republican and a friend of Lafayette. He settled in 
Maryland in 1781 and a quarter of a century later moved to 
Louisville, founded a hardware business and developed a 
country estate near Bowling Green, Kentucky, Here he 
hunted and lived in the manorial manner, meanwhile pro 
moting commerce and operating the first line of steamboats 
to run between New Orleans and Louisville. 

Jean s son, Francis Honore, inherited his father s taste for 
hunting. He and his wife, the accomplished Matilda Lock- 
wood, passed on a heritage of dash and vitality to their grand 
daughter Bertha. Their children were Mary Ann, Benjamin, 
Francis, Jr., and Henry Hamilton Honore, Bertha s father, who 
divided his time between his father s plantation and his grand- 



A City in Flames 15 

father s hardware business in Louisville. He was a member 
of the Louisville firm when his visit to Chicago fired his imag 
ination and led to the family exodus. 

Proud Mary Dorsey, a vivacious woman of independent 
views, who freed her slaves because of her conscientious 
scruples long before this became mandatory, watched her 
daughter Eliza leave for Chicago with a strong sense of the 
inevitability of fate but without much belief in what the city 
had to offer. Thus small Bertha, whose name one day would be 
synonymous with Chicago, found herself growing up with 
the city itself. 



^Merchant Prince 



Like everyone else in Chicago Bertha 
Honore was familiar with Potter Palmer s store. She often 
drove with her mother to shop there and after her meeting with 
the owner in 1862 she was always observed and personally es 
corted by him from counter to counter. With his tall hat 
shoved back on his head and his hands full of papers, he 
would drop everything to pull out bolts of silk for her in 
spection or seek diligently for the gloves that exactly matched 
a gown. 

He had brought original ideas and great dash into the mer 
chandising world. Shopping at Potter Palmer s soon was re 
garded as an entertaining pastime between social calls. Mrs. 
Honore and all her friends discussed the fascinating practice he 
had introduced of exchanging goods and giving credit. This 
was an invitation to plunge and take chances. It brought car 
riages rolling up to the entrance in unprecedented numbers and 
encouraged spendthrift buying. The women in hoops and 
wide-brimmed bonnets who bumped one another in the nar 
row passageways could always be sure that Mr. Palmer had 
the latest from Paris in stock. Goods were presented with a 

16 



Merchant Prince ij 

flourish. His window displays drew applause. He advertised in 
an original and persistent way and insisted on a courteous ap 
proach to the shopper. When he staged a bargain sale in the 
basement the response was overwhelming. This was a novelty 
for Chicago and the results encouraged further ventures of the 
sort. 

The first man to arrive in the morning and the last to leave 
at night was always Potter Palmer, who supervised the details 
in every department. He drilled his clerks in courtesy and 
showed them how to handle laces with loving care and to 
unroll carpets with dexterous ease. He went to Europe and 
brought back tapestries, curtains, veils, gloves and brocades 
that made news stories in the papers and drew Chicago s 
matrons to the store to buy. His fame spread and Bon Marche 
in Paris introduced his system of credit and exchange. R. H. 
Macy s in New York sent a representative west to see what 
Potter Palmer was doing. His rivals were skeptical at first, but 
soon had to copy his methods. Bertha heard much discussion 
in her home of his great success. Mrs. Honore said that it was 
good to have such a merchant in Chicago. 

All this had happened in a comparatively short space of 
time. He had moved west in 1852, three years before the 
Honores arrived from Louisville. The first through train from 
the East had arrived in the city that year. The streets still 
were mudholes and the sidewalks loose planks. The business 
blocks were little more than rough wooden shanties. With 
capital given him by his father he opened a dry-goods store on 
Lake Street, only seventeen years after the first little frontier 
shop had set up for business in Chicago. Tobacco chewers 
loafed with their feet on top of the stove in the small frame 
building until Potter Palmer electrified them all with his dash 
ing ways. Business mushroomed overnight when the word 
spread that he handed out little slips entitling the customer to 
get goods on approval and exchange them if not satisfied. He 
made $47,000 in the first year and won the undying approval 



1 8 Silhouette in Diamonds 

of the good dames of Chicago. But he saw beyond the window- 
panes of his store. Noting the growth of the city he began 
investing his profits in real estate. In spite of his inherent 
Quaker prudence he made bold moves and almost invariably 
came out with a profit. 

This brought him into touch with Bertha s father and soon 
he was calling at her home. Honore found him a keen trader. 
He noticed that Palmer trusted his own judgment entirely, 
and had an independent approach that was brisk and refresh 
ing. These qualities, applied to the rising fortunes of the West, 
the diversified population, the growing interest in fashion, 
made an irresistible combination at the time. In his later years 
Palmer often said that he had never taken a business partner, 
but that Cissie, as he called his wife, had shared this side of his 
life to the full. She, in turn, always recalled him as a man of 
constructive ideas in any field he entered. When friends 
sought to credit some of his success to her, she quickly re 
minded them of the place where he already stood when she 
met him. She would never detract from the business acumen 
of Potter Palmer. 

When the Civil War broke out, he foresaw the need for 
cotton wares. He borrowed heavily from the banks, crammed 
all the warehouse space he could rent with cotton and woolen 
goods, and in one fast operation bought up all the cotton held 
by A. T. Stewart, of New York; then later sold it back to 
him when the price of cotton soared. Most of it had never 
been moved from the warehouses. This new fortune was being 
built up when Bertha Honore, by sheer chance, came into 
view and all at once became more important to Potter Palmer 
than the rising tide of wealth that was sweeping him into 
greater prominence. 

By this time she had moved on to Dearborn Seminary, study 
ing all the standard subjects of the day. The girls wore white 
frilled caps and devoted considerable time to hemming towels 
and making wax camellias, violets and japonicas. Bertha prac- 



Merchant Prince 19 

ticed on the piano for an hour a day and sang ballads and 
hymns with the rest of her class. She prayed devoutly and 
attended church regularly. Her family was not Catholic but 
her parents were active in the First Christian Church and all 
the Honore children were drilled in punctilious religious ob 
servance. In later years Mrs. Palmer was noticeably tolerant 
of all religions and understood the Catholic ritual, but 
eventually she attended the Episcopal Church. 

All entertaining was done in the home at this time and in 
vitations were delivered by hand. Bertha often drove with her 
mother and sat in the family carriage while their coachman 
handed out notes. The Honores gave receptions on New 
Year s Day and Bertha and Ida moved composedly among the 
guests, their bell-shaped skirts swinging away from their 
ankles, their long hair streaming down their backs. The house 
was hung with Christmas greens. The crystal chandeliers 
glistened from recent washing. Madeira and eggnog were 
served in the Southern homes, and the fare invariably in 
cluded chicken salad, roast turkey and scalloped oysters. 
Bertha s social sense was strongly developed from her earliest 
years. 

The German cotillion had recently been added to the schot- 
tische, redowas and polkas and they all learned to dance. 
Picnics, skating and sleighing parties were popular for the 
young and Bertha and Ida, with their brothers, glided over the 
snow in a low sleigh with bright blue runners. Buffalo robes 
kept them warm and the floor was stacked with hay. They 
skated joyously on icy days, doing the double roll, the Dutch 
roll and even the figure eight. A wide, soft hood of scarlet 
velvet framed Bertha s customarily pale face, stung pink by 
the icy wind when she skated. In summer she liked to walk 
with her classmates on the breakwater that faced Michigan 
Avenue. There were clouds of dust on August days and rivers 
of mud in spring as she skipped up and down the plank ascents 
and descents that served as sidewalks, and was spattered with 



20 Silhouette in Diamonds 



muddy water from passing wagons. On hot summer nights 
families sat on their porches while the breezes off the lake 
fanned their faces. The stockyards were busy by this time but 
Bertha knew that prairie flowers still bloomed on the city out 
skirts and all around her were large gardens, lawns, cows and 
horses. The scene close to her home was almost as pastoral as 
in Louisville. 

National holidays were exuberantly celebrated, with danc 
ing, excursions, horse racing and military drills on Washing 
ton s Birthday. There were circuses, tableaux and pageants, 
and Barnum s "Grand Colossal Museum and Menagerie" gave 
three performances a day, charging thirty cents for adults and 
fifteen cents for children. Bertha was eleven when Baron 
Renfrew, whom she would later know well as King Edward 
VII, visited Chicago. She shared in all the excitement that the 
older girls showed in this event. The depot was brilliantly 
illuminated but the crowd was only mildly responsive as he 
drove to the Richmond House, accompanied by the city fire 
department s floats, representing Chicago s industries. He 
visited the courthouse, the waterworks and the Chicago His 
torical Society, then in its infancy. He was tired and sullen by 
the time he reached the Prairie City and in the end the girls 
had trouble viewing him as a romantic figure. 

Bertha developed an interest in politics at an early age. She 
listened attentively to the verbal battles that raged over the 
election of Abraham Lincoln. All Chicago was in a fever when 
he and Stephen A. Douglas began their campaigns with 
speeches from the balcony of the Tremont House. Joseph 
Medill, editing the Tribune, opposed Lincoln at first and 
backed William H. Seward, but after the nomination he 
climbed on the bandwagon and threw powerful support be 
hind the man from Springfield. Bertha walked past the big 
wooden building called the Wigwam where the historic con 
vention was held. She was old enough to have views of her 



Merchant Prince 21 

own, particularly in a home where the leading men of the city 
foregathered and conversation was spiced with debate. 

Then the war broke out and a dark cloud fell over the Honore 
home. Patriotic fervor ran high. Vigilance committees were 
formed and Southern families were eyed with some suspicion. 
Courthouse Square was checkered with recruiting tents. 
Bertha and Ida saw Ellsworth s Zouaves parading briskly in 
their picturesque attire as Chicago made its first concerted 
military gesture. Bands played. Flags waved. The news of 
battles lost and won traveled west. Chicago was far from the 
scene of the fighting but it was sending its sons, and Lincoln 
was a link between East and West. Soon the Southern 
families formed committees to distribute food and clothing to 
the prisoners at Camp Douglas. All of the Honores worked 
for the Sanitary Fairs of 1863 and 1865, and women every 
where scraped lint and made bandages. Sewing circles were 
formed and there was a steady demand for nurses. Life was 
suddenly strange and more intense to the growing Honore 
girls with all these echoes of war. The social pace was slowed 
but their home was always open and hospitable to every good 
cause. 

Chicago grew rough and rowdy during these turbulent 
years. Gambling flourished and sharpers moved in from the 
river landings and the Far West. Some were unctuous fellows 
in stagey trappings; others were rugged plainsmen who swag 
gered through the streets in frontier attire. Keno was intro 
duced and stakes were high. Gambling palaces, saloons and 
brothels flourished and a nomadic population drifted in to 
batten on the by-products of war. Through it all ran the 
undertow of death, destruction and mourning. Soon the 
Honores, like everyone else, were hearing of Ulysses S. Grant 
as the Union Army battered its way to victory. 

Bertha s life was discreetly removed from the rowdy ele 
ments that swamped Chicago during these hectic years. She 



22 



Silhouette in Diamonds 



was living the cloistered social life that her family decreed for 
her. She studied hard and got top marks in school, as well as 
high praise for her deportment. She drove in the family 
carriage through the dirty streets and heard her father insist 
that one day Dearborn Street would be the office center of 
Chicago. He bought subdivisions of land around their home 
in the Ashland Avenue district and when the war was over he 
sold his house and moved to Michigan Avenue. His family 
soon were settled in a spacious house on a tree-lined street in 
the most fashionable area of the city at that time. All around 
were imposing-looking homes, built for the most part of a 
local limestone deceptively known as Athens marble. 

No sooner had Chicago celebrated the end of the war than 
news of the assassination of Lincoln stunned the city. Illinois 
claimed him as its own and the funeral train passed through 
on its way to Springfield, black blankets with silver stars 
draping the boilers. The slow processional wound its way to 
the courthouse while three dozen high school girls scattered 
flowers before it. Doorways and windows were somber with 
crepe and thousands streamed in double file past the bier. 

That autumn Bertha journeyed to Washington and entered 
the Convent of the Visitation in Georgetown. The leaves were 
faintly stained with color and the air was crisp as the girls 
converged from different parts of the country. Before leaving 
she had said good-by to Potter Palmer, who was going abroad 
for his health. Years of hard work had worn him down. Phy 
sicians told him he must rest. His fortune at the time was close 
to seven million dollars and he was not yet forty. 

He sold his store on easy terms to the two young men, 
Marshall Field and Levi Z. Leiter, who were partners in the 
firm of Farwell, Field & Company. For a time the new firm 
was known as Field, Palmer & Leiter. Then in 1 88 1 it became 
Marshall Field & Company. Palmer left the two young mer 
chants to their own devices and had nothing further to do 
with the business except to give them the benefit of his credit 



Merchant Prince 25 

for several years until they could assume full financial respon 
sibility. Field s early history resembled his own. As a boy he 
had worked hard on his father s farm in the Berkshires and had 
clerked in a little Pittsfield store. He arrived in Chicago in the 
year that the Honores moved north from Louisville. Field did 
not believe at first in Potter Palmer s credit and exchange sys 
tem. When he took control of the store he and Leiter abolished 
it, but the women of Chicago had found it irresistible. They 
demanded a return to the genial ways of Mr. Potter Palmer 
and the new owners soon went back to pampering the cus 
tomers. 

"Silent Marsh" now waited on the Honores with the same 
attentive manner as Potter Palmer but with less concentrated 
interest. Although prices fell off badly after the war the store 
was prospering greatly and its sales were the third largest in 
volume in the country, after A. T. Stewart s and Claflin s. By 
1868 the store profits had reached a twelve-million-dollar 
yearly average and by 1881 this had risen to twenty-five 
millions, although the building was damaged by fire a second 
time. In the year before Marshall Field s death the store cleared 
$68,000,000, more than Potter Palmer had dreamed of when 
he founded his dry-goods establishment. 

While living the cloistered life of the convent Bertha gave 
little thought to the merchant prince who had gone abroad. 
She had no inkling of his plans for her future. In all respects 
she conformed to the daily routine of the convent and was a 
favorite with Mother Mary Augustine Cleary. Except for 
occasional excursions to take in the sights of the capital, and 
holidays spent at home, she rarely left the grounds. She studied 
hard and seemed an ideal student. Only the faintest echoes of 
the brisk and reckless course things were taking in Washing 
ton after the war penetrated the convent walls. But Bertha 
was alive to political currents and she saw and read enough to 
make pointed comments in her letters home. She followed 
Andrew Johnson s swift decline in public favor and was alert 



24 Silhouette in Diamonds 

to the new social currents stirring the capital. The South was 
in total eclipse. Long ago the Southern hostesses had deserted 
Washington, although some Kentuckians with family ties 
were in touch with her from time to time. Grant was the man 
of the hour. Sectional feeling still ran hot and strong. 

Bertha watched new buildings go up and the scars of war 
declining. These were formative years for her. Life was less 
luxurious and more disciplined than anything she had known. 
She matured rapidly and had an opulent look, even in her 
simple convent attire. Her mouth took a steadier line. On 
graduation day she was a glowing beauty, the picture of 
health. By that time she was five feet five and well developed. 
Her eyes were her most arresting feature. They were large 
and velvety soft when she was moved. More often they were 
keen and sparkling, and could be cool and appraising when 
Bertha was studying a question or meeting a new acquaintance. 
Her voice was low and musical, a quality that stayed with her 
through the years, although her intonations became more 
decisive as she grew older and her word became law. She was 
orderly in her habits and practical in her outlook. 

On the June day in 1867 on which she was graduated, she 
was one of six students who received the highest honors in 
the Senior Circle. A Crown and Gold Medal were conferred 
on this favored group for "uniform excellence of conduct." 
Prizes were then known as premiums and the records show an 
imposing number of awards for Bertha. She walked off with 
honors in such assorted subjects as profane history, ancient 
and modern geography, chemistry, meteorology, astronomy 
and botany, logic and intellectual philosophy, rhetoric, litera 
ture and composition, algebra and geometry, mantua work 
and domestic economy. 

She showed special interest in her music lessons and took 
top honors in piano, harp and vocal music. She was one of the 
harpists in the Grand March and sang in a vocal trio and 
chorus. When she moved smoothly forward in a soft white 



Merchant Prince 25 

silk dress to accept her diploma she had already established the 
pattern of success that was to characterize her all through life. 
She made many friends in the convent although she was aloof 
rather than demonstrative in manner. The nuns remembered 
her for her intelligence and tact. 

That autumn she made her debut in the new Honore home 
on Michigan Avenue, surrounded by the heirlooms of her 
French ancestors. The music of Strauss was much discussed at 
the time but Mrs. Honore would not permit Bertha to waltz. 
The new dance was considered too daring and Continental for 
Chicago. Four years later it was wholly accepted and Ida 
waltzed when she made her debut. Meanwhile, Bertha danced 
the approved steps with grace and precision, wearing white 
satin slippers with crossed ribbons. Her long dark hair was 
now done up in little puffs. Her sloping shoulders gleamed 
white above the dropped line of her simple debutante dress. 
Chicago s most eligible young men viewed Miss Honore with 
appreciation as she was committed to the social round of the 
day. Beautiful girls were scarce and she was a godsend for 
the Bachelors Assembly Balls given at the Tremont House by 
the town s eligible young men who banded together to repay 
their hostesses for hospitality. There were concerts and picnics 
and Bertha was conspicuously attractive in her own home as 
she played the harp and sang for guests. But she continued to 
study and read, and men called her clever. She had a succes 
sion of beaux and everyone expected her to marry quite soon. 
However, she was slow to make up her mind. 

On his return from Europe Potter Palmer saw that she had 
developed as flawlessly as he had anticipated. He no longer 
made any secret of the fact that he wished to marry her. He 
sent uniformed messengers with flowers and begged for en 
gagements but she went serenely on her way, without giving 
him much encouragement. By this time he had changed quite 
perceptibly from the quiet shopkeeper in business clothes to a 
sporting figure, familiar at the races. While Bertha was in the 



26 Silhouette in Diamonds 

convent he had acquired the reputation of being a man of the 
world. In Europe he had learned to enjoy the money he had 
amassed so strenuously, and also with such phenomenal luck. 
On his return he made trips to Saratoga and drove along 
Broadway in one of its finest turnouts. The antebellum visitors 
from the South were gone from the scene, but a new genera 
tion of politicians, gamblers and sports had appeared with 
their wives or their mistresses. 

The quiet Quaker from Chicago surprised them all as he 
tossed his money around. Pretty girls rode in his coach and 
many tried to ensnare the wealthy merchant who knew so 
well how to buy the proper gift, select the perfect flower or 
jewel. But he went on his way unmoved, quite certain that 
Bertha Honore would be his bride when the time was ripe, 
and her parents gave their consent. He bent all his energies to 
this end and saw more and more of the Honores. He had close 
business dealings with Bertha s father. Both men were con 
sidered mad dreamers as they talked of the Chicago of the 
future, but they could speak with some authority, since they 
had substantial records behind them. H.H., as his friends 
called him, talked in quick Gallic bursts of enthusiasm. Palmer 
presented his views with precision and dry wit, concealing the 
Midas touch behind a frosty exterior. By this time he viewed 
State Street as the future commercial center of Chicago. It 
seemed a central and natural channel and it already had some 
streetcar lines when he bought a mile of frontage and pro 
ceeded to develop it. Lake Street, which had most of the retail 
stores at this time, was a narrow, dirty and ill-lighted thor 
oughfare, and although plate-glass windows had been in use 
since the 1850*5 it was a dingy shopping area for women who 
were becoming increasingly fashion-minded. Their carriages 
bumped in passing. The road was deeply rutted. 

Palmer bought the land along State Street for two hundred 
dollars a square foot, then asked the other merchants to join 
him in setting back their property so that the roadway might 



Merchant Prince 27 

be widened and paved in the interests of a spacious, well- 
lighted effect. They declined, so he went ahead and gave 
twenty additional feet of roadway on his own property, 
leaving some zigzag effects that were put to rights after the 
fire, when all the merchants were forced to widen the street 
before they could rebuild. He tore down ramshackle old build 
ings and put up thirty-two stores and business houses. The 
most spectacular was taken over at once by Field and Leiter 
for the unprecedented rent in Chicago of fifty thousand dol 
lars a year. It was six stories high and stood at the corner of 
State and Washington streets. Soon the other merchants 
deserted Lake Street and moved into Potter Palmer s fine new 
buildings. 

Bertha visited the new store and admired its marble columns, 
its good lighting and spacious aisles. Entire floors were de 
voted to classified goods. Everything from ball gowns to otto 
mans, from Persian rugs to Alexander s gloves from Paris, 
were sold by whiskered clerks, all of whom knew Miss Honore 
by sight. By this time she had become a zealous shopper. She 
loved fine clothes and bought with discrimination. The Honore 
girls were a familiar sight driving with their mother along 
Michigan Avenue on their way to the shops. New homes were 
being built on all sides by men who had grown rich during 
the war. Great fortunes were in the making in the booming 
Western city. 

The prosperity that followed the war led to inflation. Then 
there were heavy losses but through it all industry moved 
forward with irresistible force. More than twelve thousand 
vessels came into port in 1870. Twenty-seven bridges spanned 
the busy river. Fifty-seven miles of streets had more than six 
thousand lampposts. Clean lake water now flowed through 
1 54 miles of pipes, so pellucid that the day s newspaper could 
be read through a thick cake of ice, a change from the plague- 
haunted days when the water supply was a constant menace 
to life. 



28 Silhouette in Diamonds 

But the city still was rough and tumble in many sections, 
with shanties and ramshackle tenements marring the scene. 
Factories sprawled toward the prairie, and a great assortment 
of people made reapers, axes and plows, shoes and clocks and 
candles, whiskey, soap and cookstoves. The National Watch 
Company turned out fifty watches a day at Elgin. Pianos and 
melodeons were manufactured on a large scale for a music- 
loving population. Thousand of workers processed grain, or 
slaughtered pigs and cattle at the Union Stockyards with 
methods that made the sensitive shudder. 

The horsecars were crowded every day with workers, while 
the more affluent rode in hansom cabs and victorias. By this 
time the city had more than 300,000 inhabitants and Bertha 
and her father watched the suburbs spread south, north and 
west in the year 1870. Carpenters put flimsy buildings to 
gether on the prairies with some of the zeal of the pioneers, 
but Potter Palmer s new buildings had marble fronts, mansard 
roofs and external decorations. The Palmer House was going 
up as he courted Bertha. She and Ida watched its progress 
when they went downtown. At last she had ceased to brush 
him off as one of her father s old friends. In some respects he 
looked younger than before he went abroad. His health had 
improved. He dressed in a more fashionable way. There was 
no dearth of entertainment at this time after the austere days 
of the war and he went with the Honores to various functions. 

The year after Bertha s return from Georgetown, Crosby s 
Opera House, all blue and gold, was the setting for a Charity 
Ball, the first public social event of note in Chicago and a 
form of entertainment with which the future Mrs. Potter 
Palmer s name would be closely identified in later years. 
Tickets were twenty dollars apiece. Gowns were ordered 
from London, Paris and New York, as well as from Field, 
Palmer and Leiter s. The hairdressers built up waterfall 
coiffures, and Bertha s puffs and curls took hours to arrange. 
Supper was served at John Wright s fashionable restaurant 



Merchant Prince 29 

underneath the Opera House. The Honores and other well- 
known families feasted on prairie chicken and quail patties, 
boned turkey and boar s head, followed by pyramids, pagodas 
and Swiss chateaux of ice cream and temples of nougat. 

The public crowded into Crosby s Opera House and Mc- 
Vicker s Theater, grateful for the serious plays, the opera, the 
oratorios and concerts given by German orchestras and 
choruses. By this time grand opera was superseding minstrel 
shows and brass bands, and Beethoven, Mozart and Schumann 
were played on the new pianos as well as in public places. 
Although most entertaining was done in the home Bertha, 
properly chaperoned, could go to the ladies dining room in 
the Briggs House, to Henrici s, or to the Richmond House, 
where Baron Renfrew had stayed. But by this time Potter 
Palmer was assuring her that she would have the finest suite 
in his new hotel, a sophisticated hostelry being built according 
to Continental standards. 

The Palmer House was all but finished when word leaked 
out through a society column that the bridal suite was being 
hurried along for the month of August, 1870, and that the 
bridegroom would be Potter Palmer himself. The news caused 
a sensation in Chicago, where the Honores were known to be 
an extremely conservative family and Bertha was an outstand 
ing member of the younger set. 

However, she had finally turned her back on all her youth 
ful suitors and chosen the man who had vowed when she was 
only thirteen that he would make her his bride and had 
quietly pursued his purpose for eight years. She was now 
twenty-one and had met enough men to know her own mind. 
He was forty-four. Her parents favored the match, for they 
admired Potter Palmer and felt that the farm boy who had 
revolutionized merchandising and carried through such bold 
real estate operations as to make over the face of Chicago, was 
of superior mettle and ambition. But they explored his family 
history before giving their consent and to please Bertha and 



^o Silhouette in Diamonds 

her parents he was baptized in the First Christian Church a 
few days before his marriage. 

Actually, Potter Palmer was a man of some complexity. He 
was descended from two colonial families, whose combined 
names he bore. He was reared in the tradition of Quaker 
reticence and quiet speech, and was descended from Walter 
Palmer, one of the small group who came from Britain to the 
United States in 1628 with John Endecott, first Governor of 
the Colony of Massachusetts. Potter s grandfather settled in 
New Bedford and suffered severely during the sacking at the 
time of the War of the Revolution. After seven members of 
his family had died at sea he moved to New York State and 
farmed at Potter s Hollow in Albany County, on the west 
bank of the Hudson River. There Potter Palmer was born in 
1826, the fourth in a family of seven. His father was prosperous 
but young Potter had no taste for the land. He preferred 
trading and at the age of seventeen he left home with a prom 
ise from his father that when he had gained some experience 
he would give him capital to found a business. 

An awkward youth, quiet, but with hidden drive, he 
clerked for a time in a combined store, post office and bank 
in Durham County. Then he opened a shop of his own in 
Oneida, which he ran for two and a half years before moving 
to Lockport in Niagara County for another year of clerking. 
Finally he decided to leave New York State and travel west. 
He thought at first of going to California but stopped halfway 
in Chicago. His father gave him five thousand dollars and his 
blessing when he struck out for himself. 

Now, eighteen years later, another ambition had reached 
fruition. He was about to marry Bertha Honore, the girl of 
his choice, and one who had seemed unattainable in spite of 
his wealth and standing. He knew that there was much gossip 
about his latest move. The skeptics viewed it as a worldly 
marriage promoted by the Honores and felt that the Palmer 
millions had clouded their judgment. Although comfortably 



Merchant Prince 31 

off they were much less affluent at this time than in later years, 
and the story persisted that Honore was so deeply in Potter 
Palmer s debt through his land operations that he was anxious 
to mollify the millionaire. The talk was so widespread that the 
Chicago Tribune -, in reporting the wedding on July 29, 1870, 
took public note of the criticism: 

The engagement has been short only two months. It is stated 
that the bridegroom, when going away recently, offered to settle 
a million dollars on his intended bride but she nobly and per 
sistently refused. This may put an end to the bitter observations 
of envious or cynical persons inclined to stamp the marriage con 
tractso momentous to the high contracting parties as a com 
mercial transaction. No matter who married Mr. Palmer the same 
cruel and unjust remarks would be made. 

Ignoring such gross imputations Bertha was poised and sure 
of herself as she took her wedding vows in her father s home 
at 157 Michigan Avenue. The Rev. J. S. Sweeney, pastor of 
the First Christian Church, conducted the ceremony. Potter 
stood at her side, impassive and tight-lipped. Her Paris gown 
of heavy white satin was veiled in rose-point lace, looped up 
with orange blossoms. A circlet of the wedding flower rested 
on her dark hair. The ceremony was held at six o clock and 
the women wore evening gowns of the most fashionable cut. 

A crowd had gathered to watch the guests arrive as late 
afternoon sunshine flooded the treetops. Forty relatives and 
intimate friends witnessed the ceremony but seven hundred 
filed in for the wedding supper that followed. H. M. Kinsley, 
the fashionable confectioner and restaurant owner, did the 
catering and the Honore silver and crystal from France were 
in use. Flowers and ferns adorned the rooms and stringed 
music came from behind potted palms. 

At eight o clock the Palmers slipped away and left for the 
East, en route to Europe for their wedding trip. It was 
Bertha s first ocean voyage, her first glimpse of another land. 
Paris was out of the question with the Franco-Prussian War 



52 Silhouette in Diamonds 

raging and the siege of Paris about to begin. But Potter Palmer 
knew his way around Europe. He was familiar with the 
capitals, the art galleries, the shops, the spas, the pleasure 
resorts. He understood every wrinkle of the fashion and mer 
chandising world. 

Wherever the pair went they ran into groups of Americans. 
Since the end of the war many had settled in London or were 
passing through. When they drove in Hyde Park Bertha was 
observed with interest as the beautiful American girl who had 
married the rich man twice her age. They saw the traditional 
sights and spent much time in the shops. They went to the 
theater, the races, and sampled the best hotels of the day. 
Potter bought jewels for his bride, the first of a lavish collec 
tion to come. They toured the Continent, omitting France 
and Germany, and picked up treasures wherever they went. 
Bertha s favorite purchases were two gilt Florentine wedding 
chests that became familiar to her friends in later years, for she 
always kept them in her more intimate rooms. 

She returned to Chicago with new clothes, jewels and ob 
jects of art for her home. During these weeks her horizons 
had broadened. Some of her history lessons had come to life 
as she explored old British castles and stood on the Ponte 
Vecchio. Potter quite visibly adored her. His wedding gift to 
her was the $3,500,000 Palmer House. The years ahead seemed 
filled with promise. But the Great Fire cast its shadow over 
her married life almost as soon as it had begun, and Bertha 
came face to face with the first realities of her sheltered life. 
She had many friends in the city but there was little social life 
during her early married days, except for gatherings at a club 
appropriately named The Cinders. All around her people were 
trying to recover ground and get on their feet again. It was 
odd to go shopping through ruins, to see roads gutted and 
holes dug everywhere for fresh construction. The clank of 
the hammer was symphonic as she drove about, paying calls, 
doing errands, helping friends much worse off than herself. 



Merchant Prince 55 

The Honores had saved what they could of their things and 
taken a house at Vincennes Avenue and Forty-seventh Street. 
It stood in ten acres of land and had a cupola, a railed en 
closure on the roof and great bay windows. It was simply 
furnished at first with bamboo pieces and Swiss curtains 
looped with blue satin ribbon at the windows. No one was 
pretentious in the years after the fire. Bertha drove out often 
to see her parents and brothers. Ida was at the Convent of the 
Visitation by this time and Mrs. Honore missed her two 
daughters. 

The Palmers were just getting on their feet again when the 
financial panic of 1873 struck them hard. They were up to 
their ears in debt because of the huge loans that Palmer had 
initiated. But he held to his course and sold some of his land 
to save the greater part of it. He mortgaged more at high rates. 
He persuaded some of his creditors to give him time, and 
again the banks carried him, having faith in his probity and 
recuperative powers. Bertha watched these operations closely 
and was party to some of the mortgage transactions. It was an 
anxious period in their lives. Palmer slept poorly and worked 
day and night. But he kept paying off his debts and in time 
completed the reconstruction of State Street. Another big fire 
flashed through the city in 1874, sweeping away part of the 
business district and destroying some of the structures that had 
been rebuilt. But the Palmer House escaped this time and soon 
the Palmers were magnificently quartered in their own hotel. 

On February i, 1874, Bertha bore her first son and named 
him Honore. Palmer was proud of his infant son. He was 
proud of his beautiful wife. This was a happy summer for her 
as she nurtured the romance that had developed between Ida 
and Frederick Dent Grant, oldest son of President Ulysses 
S. Grant. Her sister had just graduated from the Convent of 
the Visitation and spent much time with Bertha. She played 
the harp and piano and had a well-cultivated mezzo-soprano 
voice. At parties she was always a gentle foil for her sister s 



54 Silhouette in Diamonds 

more vibrant personality. Her dark eyes were wistful, where 
Bertha s gazed on the world with calm and assurance. The 
Honore sisters had the same dark hair, the same interests, the 
same good manners, but Ida was the more pliant of the two. 
She was enraptured when Fred s letters arrived from the 
Black Hills region, where he was on service with General 
George A. Ouster. Messengers rode in with them from the 
plains to Fort Abraham Lincoln, where they were mailed to 
Chicago. But it took six weeks in all for the letters to reach 
their destination. Ida showed Bertha the wild flowers that 
Fred sent her and read out snatches of his graphic descriptions 
of the wild deer in the forest, of the Indians who peered at 
them from cragged ledges, and of the bear and wild buffalo he 
had shot. Fred was twenty-four, a sturdy figure with much 
history behind him. He had been through five battles with 
his father before he was thirteen and was wounded just before 
the assault on Vicksburg. He was under General Philip H. 
Sheridan s command in the Chicago district, and it was in 
evitable that he and Ida should have met at social gatherings. 

She found him irresistible. After a short engagement they 
were married at the Honore home on October 20, 1874, with 
Ulysses S. Grant and Mrs. Grant looking on. The President 
beamed happily on Ida, well satisfied with the choice Fred 
had made. His only daughter Nellie had just been married in 
the White House to Algernon Sartoris, the nephew of Fanny 
Kemble, but he had not wholly approved. Ida Honore, how 
ever, seemed to be everything that a parent could ask for and 
he found her as "charming for her manners, amiability, good 
sense & education as she is for her beauty." Her sister, Mrs. 
Potter Palmer, had already won Ulysses Grant s respect. 
From this time on she would be hostess to the Grants on their 
frequent visits to Chicago, and would sometimes present a 
dazzling appearance in Mrs. Grant s receiving line at the 
White House. 

Fred arrived for his wedding in an open wagon drawn by 



Merchant Prince %$ 

four well-curried army mules with burnished hooves and 
bells on their harness. His brown hair grew crisp and thick 
around his deeply tanned face. He had his father s bright blue 
eyes, and also his gravity. General Sheridan rode up with his 
staff in dress uniform. The Potter Palmers arrived with all the 
dash that a Palmer equipage entailed. Like Ulysses Grant, 
Potter Palmer had a taste for fast horses. The men on the box 
wore the maroon livery that Bertha had chosen for her staff. 

She was spectacular herself in pearl gray with facings of 
cardinal red. Her basque had a postilion back and her sash 
was gray with a cardinal fringe. There were fresh pink roses 
among the diamonds in her hair and she wore a lace veil over 
an elaborate coiffure of puffs and ringlets. Her jewels were 
pearls and diamonds. Potter matched her in a gray frock coat 
with gray topper and one perfect pearl in his gray cravat. But 
the star performer at Ida s wedding was little Honore Palmer, 
eight months old, who was carried in on a satin pillow, wear 
ing a long embroidered dress of white mull with a pale blue 
ribbon sash. He held his peace throughout the wedding cere 
mony and was much admired by the guests. 

President Grant stood beside the stately Mrs. Honore as 
the bride came into view. Potter Palmer had showered dia 
monds on his beautiful sister-in-law, including a cross and a 
pair of matching earrings. She wore the pearls that Mrs. Grant 
had given her and carried a lace handkerchief, a gift from 
Bertha, who had been chief adviser on all the wedding ar 
rangements. It was a much more imposing ceremony than 
she had had when she married Potter Palmer, and the presence 
of Ulysses S. Grant drew national attention. The Potter 
Palmers had supplied the silver service for the wedding ban 
quet and the guests could choose from stewed terrapin, 
escalloped oysters, sweetbread patties, turkey, snipe, chicken 
or lobster salad, boned quail in jelly, ices, charlotte russe, fresh 
fruits and frappeed champagne, port and sherry. 

Ulysses S. Grant, II, commonly known as "Buck," was one 



$6 Silhouette in Diamonds 

of the ushers. Among the guests were Mrs. Custer, the Cyrus 
H. McCormicks, the Charles B. Farwells, the A. E. Bories 
and many prominent citizens of Chicago as well as close 
friends of the President s family and an array of Civil War 
officers. It was an evening wedding and the guests came in full 
panoply, with magnificent gowns and the built-up coiffures of 
the period. 

Bertha embraced her sister warmly as she left the family 
home. Contented in her own marriage, she was happy to see 
Ida become the wife of Fred Grant, who seemed to be as 
sincere, modest and persevering as his father. She was also not 
indifferent to the fact that Ida was now going to live in the 
White House while Fred was west in service. Her little sister 
had done well. Their parents faces showed how satisfied they 
were. Bertha drove back to the Palmer House with her 
husband in a glow of satisfaction. Baby Honore had been an 
angel throughout. The pattern of life, which had come un 
raveled after the fire, was settling into place again. 

She had only to look around her to see that the shattered 
city was recovering. Although shops, homes, theaters, hotels, 
churches and factories had been wiped out, better ones were 
rising to take their places. Emergency frame buildings still 
gave an air of disorder to the scene, but this phase was passing. 
A solid city was rising from the embers. The stockyards had 
escaped the fire and twice as many hogs were now being 
butchered as ever before. Since trade records had been de 
stroyed businessmen used mutual trust in their dealings and 
the citizens felt purified, reborn, revitalized. Between the year 
of Ida s wedding and the 1890*8 68,000 buildings would go up 
at a cost of $300,000,000. The Potter Palmers would never 
know another setback. They would be part and parcel of the 
growth of Chicago. 



3 

The Innkeeper s Wife 



All Chicago talked of the new Palmer 
House in the iSyo s and visitors from abroad carried home 
tales of its grandeur. Its owner welcomed the first guest to 
sign the register and then installed himself in a small office on 
the main floor with a window opening on the lobby. Here he 
could watch the world go by, but he kept in the background 
and few of the guests knew that the vigilant man in the little 
cage was Potter Palmer. 

Of all the gorgeous women in rustling silks and ostrich 
plumes who strolled by, none in his eyes compared with his 
wife, who by this time lived on the premises. He watched her 
comings and goings with the greatest pride and kept close 
track of the engagements she made. The hotel was a focus of 
fashionable life. While Mrs. Palmer presided in her own suite 
upstairs its lobby, ballroom, reception and banquet halls were 
the backdrop for many gay gatherings. The bridal suite was 
in great demand, often for rich young men who had made 
fortunes in the West and wished to take their brides to the 
most discussed hotel of the day. 

The guests were a show in themselves. Swaggering gamblers 

37 



$8 Silhouette in Diamonds 

and gold rash millionaires swapped stories at the sixty-foot 
bar with Wall Street giants, world travelers, showmen and 
Viennese opera stars. Buffalo Bill and Jean de Reszke, 
Rudyard Kipling and Edwin Booth all drank from an assort 
ment of colored glasses that sparkled like the night s convivial 
ity. Anyone with a cause who passed through the city sooner 
or later might be seen at the Palmer House. Anyone with a 
great name who visited Chicago was bound to dine in the 
shadow of its stately pillars. 

When the Chicago Club balked at receiving Sarah Bern- 
hardt on her first visit to the city, Potter Palmer welcomed her 
as if she were royalty* He gave her a suite of rooms running 
along one side of the hotel. A "five-glass landau" drove her 
around town. Her meals were prepared in her own rooms. 
Her favorite French dishes were on the menu. Mrs. Palmer 
refrabed from flying openly in the face of convention, and 
she did not deliberately arrange a reception for her coming, 
but she believed that all honor was due Sarah Bernhardt, 
Madam Modjeska and other actresses of great reputation who 
stayed at the Palmer House. Presidents were welcome, too. 
When Benjamin Harrison visited the city in 1889 Palmer 
wired to Senator Charles B. Farwell, another dry-goods mer 
chant who had come from New York State: "Please extend 
the compliments and hospitalities of the Palmer House to the 
President and his family while in Chicago." 

European princesses and well-known authors, farm girls 
who had married money, suffrage agitators and big-time 
gamblers alike chose dishes from an illustrated menu that 
showed on one side a pigsty and hovel with the inscription 
"Chicago Forty Years Ago" and on the other a wonderful 
city, "The Chicago of Today." Meals were a challenge to the 
unsophisticated palate. Boned quail in plumage, blackbirds, and 
partridge served in nests were listed along with buffalo, ante 
lope, bear and mountain sheep. The spun-sugar confectionery 
and ices dazzled the guests and the gustatory delights of the 



The Innkeeper s Wife $9 

Palmer House became famous. But the silver dollars inset in 
the tiles of its barbershop were its unique feature. This oddity 
became a Western legend. Boys growing up on the prairie 
dreamed of the day they would visit Chicago and view the 
Garden of Eden, as the tonsorial parlor was sometimes called 
in honor of its proprietor, W. S. Eden. The hotel was justly 
noted, however, for its steaks, its excellent Negro waiters and 
its Continental touches. In his travels Potter Palmer had studied 
the best hotels of Europe. He adapted some of their features 
to his own, but in addition he gave it the individual touch 
that he applied to all his properties. The Egyptian note was 
strong in the public areas. 

The building was eight stories high and covered a city block. 
Its fluted pillars supported carved and frescoed ceilings, The 
rooms were large and luxurious. Flowers appeared on the 
dining tables, a novelty at the time. Elevators ran the guests 
upstairs. The fireproofing arrangements were widely adver 
tised. Memories of the Great Fire died hard. It had left scars 
on the people of Chicago, since none who went through it 
could ever forget the burning city. 

"It is more like an elegantly appointed home than a mere 
resting-place for such birds of passage as ourselves," wrote 
Lady Duffus Hardy after a visit to the Palmer House in 1879. 
She found each suite perfect in itself, with its private bath, its 
luxurious lounges and the "easiest of easy-chairs/ 7 The halls 
were lined with fauteuils, sofas and all the appointments of a 
handsome drawing room and it had an air of great luxury, 
in the opinion of this visiting Englishwoman. 

But Rudyard Kipling, staying there while on his way home 
from India in 1889, could see no virtue in Chicago and still 
less in Potter Palmer s hotel. He thought the city was in 
habited by savages, its air was dirty, its water was like that of 
the Hooghly. He found the Palmer House a "gilded and 
mirrored rabbit warren" and decided that a Hottentot would 
not have been guilty of having silver dollars inlaid in a floor. 



40 Silhouette in Diamonds 

His brief view of the hotel left him with an impression of a 
"huge hall of tessellated marble, crammed with people talking 
about money and spitting about everywhere. Other barbarians 
charged in and out of this inferno with letters and telegrams 
in their hands, and yet others shouted at each other." 

But few shared Kipling s view. A compatriot wrote in the 
London Times that it was more of a public club in feeling than 
a hotel. He was much impressed with the "extensive parlours, 
reception, reading, writing and smoking rooms, lifts con 
stantly running, electric call bells and lights, with complete 
attendance and messenger service." He took stock of the pool 
room where noted champions played, the tenpin alley, the 
magnificent bar and its restaurants, wines and food. Most 
astonishing of all to this visitor was its aggregation of shops, 
its manifold service and its telegraphic ticker which signaled 
fresh profits and gave an air of excitement to its lobby. 

Not the least of its attractions was the chance to catch a 
glimpse of Mrs. Potter Palmer as she stepped from her 
brougham, heavily jeweled and dressed in the latest from Paris. 
It was an era of bustles and trailing skirts, of flounces, ublien 
and hats with the plumage of birds. Black Maltese lace 
trimmed her polonaise and her ball dresses were of silk and 
tulle, bordered with ostrich tips. She favored delicate colors 
and was particularly fond of blue. Silk hose was the rage. Her 
stockings, ordered from Paris, were topped with Valenciennes, 
Cluny or Duchess lace. They cost from seventy to a hundred 
dollars for a dozen pairs and were worn with gold-buckled 
garters and bronze kid sandal boots. When the wind blew 
off the lake on icy winter days she carried a lynx muff and 
wore lace-topped balbriggan hose. 

But these were Mrs. Palmer s more domestic years. She was 
fully occupied with family affairs while her husband built 
up a new reputation for himself and a fresh fortune as a hotel- 
keeper. Their second son, Potter, was born on October 8, 
1875, on the fourth anniversary of the fire. Potter Palmer 



The Innkeeper s Wife 41 

had changed greatly since his marriage and the birth of his 
children. To the surprise of those who knew him best, he had 
settled into a domesticated pattern. His most contented hours 
were passed in their private quarters watching his beautiful 
wife playing with her small sons or presiding at table. 

Bertha was a formidable, if also an equable wife, with the 
knack of getting her own way. She avoided fuss and her voice 
was never raised in anger. Potter was quiet but he was also 
stubborn and from time to time he showed flashes of jealousy 
where his young wife was concerned. He was deeply absorbed 
in his hotel but he had come to worship Cissie. Men admired 
her openly and some of the bolder patrons of the hotel paid 
her extravagant compliments. Ten-year-old Artie Ballard, at 
tending a private school near the Palmer House in the late 
iSyo s, often called on Mrs. Palmer with some of his class 
mates on their way home. She gave them fruit, candy and 
cake. Having grown up with brothers she had a genial way 
with small boys. 

But one day when Artie got to her door she called out: 
"Will you do something for me? I am locked in and cannot 
get out. I ll slip a note under the door. Take it to my brother, 
Mr. Honore, and see that no one else gets it or sees you give 
it to him and he will have me let out." Artie was convinced 
that Potter Palmer had locked her in. 

However, Mrs. Palmer s course through life was so steady, 
her reputation so unsmirched, her devotion to her family so 
genuine, that any attempts to give romantic inference to her 
numerous friendly contacts with men died for lack of nourish 
ment. It was soon forgotten that she was the very young wife 
of a much older man. Some thought her cold. Others were in 
timidated by her quiet forcefulness. But she was much ad 
mired by men, and even some of the business letters addressed 
to her still convey a sense of personal compliment and warm 
admiration not usually found in such correspondence. She 
deplored scandal, gossip and marital mix-ups. When the mar- 



42 Silhouette in Diamonds 

riages of some of her Chicago friends went on the rocks she 
was sympathetic but nothing of the sort touched her own 
family circle until after her death. 

Potter at times was a demon taskmaster. He drove archi 
tects and workmen to desperation with his demands when 
the hotel was going up. He had his own ideas about the way 
things should be done and he stubbornly enforced his wishes. 
The effect was sometimes chaotic. His passion for repairs and 
improvements kept him constantly involved with decorators, 
carpenters and plumbers. When a wholesaler delivered a large 
consignment of furniture that was supposed to be stuffed 
with horsehair, he ripped open the coverings with a knife, 
pulled out tow, and promptly canceled the entire order, al 
though it represented a fortune to the manufacturer. Before 
he lived on the premises he would drive to the hotel at three 
o clock in the morning to see that his orders were being 
carried out. 

Although a modest man, who stayed in the background as 
he ran his hotel, he had a natural flair for publicity. He did 
dashing things in an offhand way, then sat back and watched 
the results with quiet satisfaction. It was all part of his wry 
sense of humor. At the time he married Bertha he astonished 
the town by driving around in a French charabanc with 
leopard-skin seats, and he tallyhoed to the Washington Park 
Derby with considerable flourish. But he seemed meek and 
mild in his little cage at the Palmer House, and later in his 
more imposing office upstairs. It was not in his nature to show 
exuberance or to greet his guests in the lordly manner of John 
B. Drake, who presided at the new Grand Pacific Hotel and 
was his chief professional rival. He demanded courtesy in 
his hotel staff, however, as he did in his store, and he func 
tioned with the assurance of a man who knew his business. 
Decisions were swiftly made. Like Bertha, he never raised his 
voice, yet none questioned his authority. Both were inclined 



The Innkeeper s Wife 43 

to be perfectionists in their own performance, and to be 
equally exacting in their demands on others. 

They always referred to the hotel as a "home" or "house." 
Potter wrote to a friend, Charles Leland, on August 26, 1876: 
"I am taking the entire charge of my house which very 
thoroughly occupies my time from six in the morning to late 
in the evening. The business of my house is continually im 
proving and promises are more than flattering for the future. 
I have a very fine restaurant connected with my home and 
much need a good man to take charge of it." 

Bertha s brother Henry became the steward after this but 
Palmer held the master hand in matters large and small He 
was constantly on guard for Drake s operations. Their two 
hotels shared the theater and opera stars, political figures of 
note, and the bankers and businessmen from the East who 
had ever tightening links with the Prairie City. Drake func 
tioned in the grand manner. He initiated dances which he 
called assemblies. Johnny Hand, then in his prime, conducted 
the orchestra and the fashionable younger set danced deco 
rously to his hotel music. He and Potter Palmer were the first 
to install electricity in their hotels. They ran neck to neck on 
all innovations. The Tremont House, which reopened in 1874, 
was another favorite stopping place for the people of the 
theater, and the Sherman House was always filled. 

With their growing fortunes and native generosity the 
newly made millionaires of Chicago went in for philanthropy. 
The Palmers gave generously to all projects that might en 
courage the development of the city. When asked soon after 
the panic of 1873 to S^ ve funds for a new building for the 
Y.M.C.A. Palmer demanded: "How much from me?" 

"A hundred thousand," he was told. 

He smiled noncommittally, "What are they doing all our 
fine friends?" he asked. 

"Oh, they are giving large amounts." 



44 Silhouette in Diamonds 

He pondered for a moment. "Well, I ve at last cleared the 
mortgage on this hotel. I m in good shape. I ll give you the 
money." 

Palmer was one of the early managers of the Y.M.C.A. and 
he organized the Chicago Baseball Club at the Briggs House 
in 1871, becoming its first president. Through the Citizens 
League he worked with Cyrus H. McCormick, Marshall Field, 
George M. Pullman, Franklin MacVeagh, Martin A. Ryerson 
and Ferdinand W. Peck to check crime and drinking among 
juveniles. He played the master role in laying out and beauti 
fying Jackson and Washington parks and the connecting 
boulevards. The shrubs, the trees, the seeds brought from 
Kew Gardens to Chicago, all stemmed in part from the Palmer 
influence in the early days. His work as South Park Com 
missioner left an indelible stamp on the city s development. 

Bertha was a stimulating force in all such projects. She en 
couraged him to talk of his work and his aims. A silent man 
in company, he grew quite eloquent with her. Big though his 
visions were, she sometimes lengthened the vista, for she had 
grown up in the shadow of lofty enterprise and she loved 
Chicago. No scheme seemed too grandiose to an Honore 
daughter. When her husband came upstairs at night, exhausted 
from the problems of pleasing the guests, handling his staff 
and ordering supplies, she listened attentively to what he had 
to say. In later years she often remarked that she had learned 
all she knew of business during these early days of her mar 
riage, when there was time to be closer to Potter and they dis 
cussed his operations in detail. 

True, much of her time even then was spent in social inter 
change. She had endless resources at her command and made 
the most of them. But inevitably she was swept into the area 
of public work and philanthropy. While lending herself read 
ily to the purely fashionable elements she did not overlook 
the growing influence of the women s clubs. She built bul 
warks around herself by her zeal for the charitable enterprises; 



The Innkeeper s Wife 45 

of the day. Bertha was early on the side of the reformers, and 
although the Palmer House bar did a fashionable and booming 
business every night, she interested herself in the Woman s 
Christian Temperance Union, founded in Chicago by Frances 
E. Willard. Soon Mrs. Matilda B. Carse, who was president 
of the Chicago branch, learned that she could turn to her for 
support at any time. 

Mrs. Palmer allied herself with Jane Addams when Hull 
House became a focus of social experiment. She was never 
indifferent to a good community cause and always gave prac 
tical aid. Although posterity might regard her as a social snob 
and jeer a little at her magnificence she was the first of the 
very rich women in America to give fighting as well as finan 
cial support to the cause of the working woman. She was 
years ahead of her time in her approach to such matters. But 
she gave slight consolation to the professional suffragists. She 
had no patience with Bloomerism, short hair or freak theories. 
She thought that women should play up all their God-given 
assets but hold out for equal standards. It was strictly a world 
where men and women should work together. Rough tactics 
offended her. Her instinct was to use the weapon at hand and 
the vote still seemed far off. "One hears so much about the 
new woman that one is in danger of being bored by her un 
less she arrives quickly," she commented on one occasion. 

Mrs. Palmer set a high price on brains. Her most consistent 
goals were the better education of women and the improve 
ment of their economic status. She doubted that men could 
genuinely admire the "stupid, superficial fools they have 
trained us to become." Nor could she believe that clever 
women were intimidating to men. "However bright, no 
woman need be frightened by the thought that man may not 
admire and love her, for she feels that he can t help it," said 
Mrs. Palmer, with biological understanding and the assurance 
of a beautiful woman. 

The theory of equal pay for equal work made excellent 



46 Silhouette in Diamonds 

sense to her and nothing aroused her more than hampering 
strings on the woman worker. Suttee and polygamy seemed 
less barbaric than denying women the right to better them 
selves by work, she said in one of her more spirited addresses. 
Her emergence as a strong champion of the working woman 
came about by a series of logical steps. The Fortnightly Club 
was her first venture into public view. It was founded by 
Mrs, Kate Newell Doggett and its professed aims were cul 
tural. Its two hundred members were women of wealth and 
fashion who assembled to discuss the arts. Other clubs were 
founded after this pattern and Bertha became a leading spirit 
in the Chicago Woman s Club, which was established in 1876 
primarily for the study of social problems. Its members held 
literary meetings and discussed reform, philanthropy, educa 
tion, science, philosophy, home care and the arts. Working 
girls as well as social leaders belonged to the club. By this 
time Chicago had a formidable number of women employed 
in the business field as secretaries, accountants, cashiers, typ 
ists, saleswomen and clerks, and it was noted that the invaders 
were "gallantly assisted by all true Chicago men who have 
the native spirit." 

This club brought Mrs. Palmer into touch with the leading 
social reformers and she became a prize catch in their midst, 
not only for her practical interest but for the generous finan 
cial aid that she and Potter Palmer were always ready to give. 
The club took up one civic project after another. "If funds 
were lacking for any good cause, or if we had to make up a 
quota, we just asked the Potter Palmers," commented Mrs. 
Carter EL Harrison, the Mayor s wife. 

Soon Mrs. Palmer was holding meetings for factory girls 
at her home and was studying the conditions under which 
they lived and worked. She helped in the push for protective 
legislation and joined forces with such women as Julia 
Lathrop, Florence Kelley, Alice Hamilton, Mary McDowell 
and Louise de Koven Bowen. She became a patron of the 



The Innkeeper s Wife 47 

Women s Trade Union League and it was largely through 
her efforts that the millinery workers of Chicago were or 
ganized and their working conditions improved. She often 
had illustrated lectures at her home, impressing on her friends 
the conditions under which factory girls worked, lived and 
played. One of her own favorite receptions was for shopgirls 
and she made a point of pushing their interests. She could 
handle them just as well as she did the debutantes who flocked 
to her house to show their skill as cooks when a domestic 
science teacher from Columbia University gave a cooking 
demonstration under her aegis. Mrs. Palmer was inevitably 
a pace setter for her generation. 

She gave money lavishly to most of the causes brought to 
her attention and her regular charitable outlay was estimated 
at twenty-five thousand dollars a year, irrespective of large 
family donations for special projects. She gave strong financial 
backing to the Chicago Woman s Club and had life member 
ship in a number of philanthropic organizations. She belonged 
also to the Tuesday Art and Travel Club, the Onwentsia Club 
and Saddle and Cycle Club, an old and exclusive organization 
on the North Side. Mrs. Palmer worked with drive and sin 
cerity at all the activities to which she lent her name. For a 
time she was a trustee of Northwestern University. 

Meanwhile, her social rise went on without interruption. 
President Grant had offered Palmer a Cabinet post in his sec 
ond administration but Potter had no wish to be Secretary of 
the Interior or to hold any other government office. He was 
essentially a businessman, not a politician. He liked Chicago 
and he abhorred the jungle of politics. His decision was reached 
after he had talked things over with Cissie. The Grant 
administrations were checkered with scandals, and tales of 
nepotism flourished. Interested as she was in public service, 
Mrs. Palmer recognized Chicago as home ground. Since Ida s 
marriage she had made a number of trips to the capital. Mrs. 
Grant gave one of the most brilliant receptions of her eight 



48 Silhouette in Diamonds 

years in the White House for the tiny beauty who had mar 
ried her oldest son. Mrs. Potter Palmer flashed into focus for 
Washington society for the first time on this occasion when 
she made a dramatic appearance with her sister. She eclipsed 
everyone else when she walked into the East Room and took 
a stand in the receiving line. The White House was Ida s home 
now and the two Honore sisters were thought to be irresist 
ible together, with their good looks, their style and bright 
conversation. Both were fluent linguists and could handle the 
diplomats with ease. Fred was frequently away on military 
expeditions but Ida was well established and Mrs. Grant con 
sidered her an asset in her receiving line. Occasionally Nellie, 
her own daughter, returned from England for visits and then 
the two young matrons added glamour to the scene, with Mrs. 
Palmer showing up occasionally at Mrs. Grant s side. 

Fred returned home on leave in June, 1876, for the birth of 
his first child. Otherwise he would have been in the Custer 
massacre. Little Julia Grant was born in a white and turquoise 
room in the White House and Bertha rejoiced that Honore 
and Potter now had a girl cousin. She weighed thirteen pounds 
at birth and at her baptism in the East Room members of her 
grandfather s Cabinet took stock of the new baby and their 
wives admired the long dress of mull and Valenciennes made 
by Mrs. Honore. Bertha soon regarded her sister s child as a 
daughter, since she was never to have one of her own. When 
Julia was three she stayed with the Palmers in Chicago and 
shared in the excitement of the Grants return from their 
two-year trip around the world. With her parents she joined 
the party at Omaha and was part of the triumphal entry into 
Chicago. 

Mrs. Palmer was much to the fore in the great reception 
given the former President there. A third term was under dis 
cussion and politicians had converged from all quarters to 
mount the bandwagon. But it was Grant the soldier, not 
Grant the President, who was wildly cheered during the 



The Innkeeper s Wife 4$ 

three-day celebration. The family stayed at the Palmer House 
and Bertha took charge of Mrs. Grant. The business of the 
city stood still for a monster parade with floats and banners 
bearing the names of the General s battles. 

The streets were jammed for blocks around the hotel as 
long as he was there. The Palmers gave a private luncheon in 
the red parlor for their guests. At the public reception that 
followed the crowd got out of hand and the program had to 
be abandoned. The halls, the stairs, the reception rooms and 
parlors were jammed. Mrs. Palmer swept Mrs. Grant up to 
her suite and spread the word that the guests had retired. The 
climax of their visit came with the thunderous welcome given 
Grant in the banquet hall by veterans of the Army of the 
Tennessee, led by General William Tecumseh Sherman. Six 
hundred war veterans yelled themselves hoarse. The decora 
tions were miniature cannon, rifles, carbines and Minie balls. 
The menus were midget tents. Mrs. Palmer arranged for Mrs. 
Grant and other officers wives to sit with her in the gallery 
behind a curtain of smilax, through which they could see and 
hear all that took place. Mark Twain, an interested spectator, 
reported that the orators "emptied Niagaras of glory upon 
Grant" but that this had no more effect on him than if he 
had been a bronze image. 

It was one of the more memorable evenings in Palmer 
House history, and doubly so for Bertha, whose sister now 
was so intimate a member of the General s family. That winter 
the Grants went to Mexico and small Julia was sent west to 
stay with her for Christmas. Candles burned on a great tree 
such as the child had never seen. She played around it with 
Honore and Potter and opened wonderful gifts. She was now 
three and old enough to observe the glitter of jewels around 
her aunt s throat as she stood at the head of the staircase 
sparkling like a fairy princess. 

When she was five Julia went west again to stay with the 
Palmers at their country house outside Chicago. At this time 



jo Silhouette in Diamonds 

Uncle Potter drove in to work every day. When he came 
home in the late afternoon he pruned the bushes until Cissie 
came out and took the shears from him. He liked to go to 
the stables and hose the carriages but again she would inter 
rupt him and then he would play with the children. There 
were lawns for them to roll on, garden patches for them to 
cultivate, and merry games to be played by Julia, Honore and 
Potter. Mrs. Palmer took them driving in her brougham on 
fine days. The horses had silver harness and two top-hatted 
men sat on the box. They could produce a brougham, a 
coupe, a landau or a victoria at a moment s notice for Mrs. 
Palmer s use. The children had their own little governess cart. 

The summer sped along until July 4, when a son was born 
to Ida and Fred. They named him Ulysses S. Grant in 
honor of his grandfather. The year was 1881. Julia had eaten 
too many cherries in the garden the day before. She sickened 
and was put to bed in a little room next to her mother s. But 
in the night her Aunt Bertha walked in and took her in her 
arms, carrying her into her own room and tucking her into 
bed. In the morning Mrs. Palmer rounded up the three chil 
dren and marched them into Ida s room. She told them to be 
absolutely silent and to walk out again at a signal. But first she 
let little Julia hold her new brother in her arms for a moment. 

Ida was ill for a long time after that and Julia passed more 
and more time with her Aunt Bertha, who dressed her in 
ruffles and her sons at times in Little Lord Fauntleroy velvet 
suits, a fashion of the period. But they were not coddled boys. 
Eighty years later Honore could still remember the wallop 
ings that his mother gave him at this stage of his life. She had 
vigorous ideas about the upbringing of the young, insisting 
that they learn everything well and finish what they started. 
As they grew older she introduced a regime of physical train 
ing and strenuous sports. Potter was named "Min" by his gov 
erness because of his fragile air. Although servants surrounded 
them on all sides their mother took an active part in their 



The Innkeeper s Wife 57 

training. She liked to read to them and listen to their chatter. 
Remembering her own upbringing she taught them to be con 
siderate of others and to respect old age. Honore was ad 
venturous. He resembled his father in liking fast horses and 
taking chances. Potter was quiet and studious. When Julia 
Grant was with them, the little group was complete and the 
boys treated her like a sister. 

With his sons growing up and his hotel prospering beyond 
all expectation Potter Palmer began to think of building a 
home worthy of his wife. By this time few evidences of the 
fire remained except for picturesque shells of suburban houses 
now overgrown with flowers or weeds, some ruined churches 
and wrecked factory foundations. The population of Chicago 
had reached the half-million mark and it was the fourth largest 
city in the country. Cable cars were replacing the city s horse- 
drawn streetcars. The more affluent owned their own carriages 
but there were plenty of livery stables for public use. The 
foliage in Lincoln Park had now grown thick and the little 
lakes and hillocks were bright with flowers and shrubbery. 
Its cricket club had 150 members. Eighty cyclists had their 
own bicycle club. The Chicago Yacht Club and the Farra- 
gut Boat Club were responsible for flocks of white sails 
on sunny days. Twenty railroad lines ran into the city 
and by 1886 five thousand telephones were in use. The news 
paper world was lively and competitive with the Tribune 
and Times, the Herald and Post, the Inter-Ocean, Journal and 
Daily News. Corn poured through the huge grain elevators. 
There were two tunnels for traffic and a succession of draw 
bridges across the river. George M. Pullman was building 
Pullman City and ginger-whiskered Philip D. Armour, who 
had come from upstate New York like Potter Palmer, domi 
nated the packing field, with Gustavus Swift, a cattle trader 
from Massachusetts, close on his heels. Twenty-nine large 
packing concerns brought further wealth to Chicago and 
spread their trade-marks around the globe. 



52 Silhouette in Diamonds 

The Honores still lived on Michigan Avenue and close at 
hand were Charles T. Yerkes, the traction magnate of dubious 
repute from Philadelphia; Ferdinand W. Peck, whose interest 
in music and a more sophisticated city led to the erection of 
the Auditorium; James H. McVicker, whose theater gave Chi 
cago its most distinguished drama, and a number of packers 
and brewers whose houses were a reproof to Potter Palmer. 
Bertha had only a modest country dwelling to house her, 
aside from her more impersonal quarters in the Palmer House. 
Mansions with cupolas and buttresses, pinnacles and towers 
were being built by the new millionaires when he selected the 
site for his. 

As always, he did the unusual. Instead of building on Michi 
gan or Prairie Avenue he looked around for a new area to 
develop. He owned three thousand feet of lake frontage that 
seemed to everyone else to be a watery, wind-swept waste, 
low-lying and bleak. This stretch had once belonged to John 
Jacob Astor and Palmer had picked it up for a song. From this 
wilderness of sand dunes, stunted willows and pools of 
stagnant water, where boys used to crawl through the reeds 
to shoot mallards, redheads and canvasback ducks, he created 
Lake Shore Drive. The youthful hunters scattered when a big 
scow came in view and a pump began to suck sand from the 
lake bottom and throw it on the shore. The entire marsh was 
drained and filled with clean sand which made a good founda 
tion for the buildings Potter Palmer planned. When the city 
ran a roadway through this area, known first as North Shore 
Drive and then as Lake Shore Drive, Chicago had taken a big 
step forward toward magnificence. 

Palmer decided to build his own house in the center of the 
reclaimed land, facing the lake, looking toward Lincoln Park 
to the north and the city harbor to the south. He bought 
additional lake frontage in large sections and sold only to men 
of his choice. This marked the migration of society from the 
South Side to the Gold Coast and the beginning of a blue 



The Innkeeper s Wife $3 

ribbon colony to become famous in the nation s social annals. 

Bertha approached the plans for the family castle with her 
usual concentrated interest. Henry Ives Cobb and Charles S. 
Frost, two rising young architects, were commissioned to de 
sign a three-story building that would cost about ninety thou 
sand dollars. But before it was finished a million dollars had 
been spent and Potter Palmer finally told his bookkeeper to 
stop entering charges against his new home. He had no wish 
to know the final reckoning. 

From 1882 to 1885 the work went on, while Honore and 
Potter grew and went to school and their mother moved more 
deeply into the current of community affairs. When finished 
the castle was variously described as early English battle- 
mented style, castellated Gothic, and Norman Gothic. It was 
built of Wisconsin granite with contrasting Ohio sandstone. 
This created a striped effect that greatly irked Mrs. Palmer 
until the patina of time and a lacework of English ivy toned 
it down to medieval mellowness. Its tower, with a spiral stair 
case, rose eighty feet high and was its most arresting feature. 

"The age of Pericles seems to be dawning," commented the 
Chicago Inter-Ocean. But Boni de Castellane stared at the 
porte-cochere and dubbed the castle "sumptuous and abomi 
nable." By this rime the people of Chicago had become rather 
fond of the gloomy building on the lake front and there was 
much speculation about its interior until Mrs. Palmer stepped 
from her carriage one day in 1885 and was led by her husband 
into the great octagonal hall, three stories high, with Gobelin 
tapestries on the walls and a floor of marble mosaic laid by 
imported Italian craftsmen. There were no surprises for 
Bertha, for she and Potter had worked on the castle both 
inside and out with all the zeal of their active, ambitious na 
tures. 

But when the doors were opened for her first reception her 
many friends had something to talk about for weeks. Nothing 
like it had ever before been seen in Chicago. They moved with 



54 Silhouette in Diamonds 

a mixture of awe and amusement from room to room, after 
admiring the baronial hall, with its carved oak staircase, its 
slender Gothic pillars supporting the gallery, its Bengal tiger 
skin stretched on the mosaic floor. The Honore coat of arms- 
three silver serpents intertwined with tails terminating in 
arrowheadsdecorated the newel posts of the staircase. The 
drawing room was French, the music room Spanish, the dining 
room English, the paneled passage to the ballroom Moorish, 
and the library, extending across the front of the house, 
Flemish Renaissance with carved oak figures brought from an 
old European cathedral installed over the fireplace. Much of 
the woodwork throughout the house was hand-carved. 

Mrs. Palmer s guests clustered in the drawing room, the first 
Louis XVI salon to be seen in Chicago. It was white and gold, 
creating a delicate background for its dark-eyed hostess. The 
tile floor was inlaid with pink roses. Gabriel Ferrier later 
added murals with an intricate pattern of roses and gold 
tesserae. Cupids drifted across the ceiling. 

The combination ballroom and picture gallery added later 
on was to be the background for many of Mrs. Palmer s re 
ceptions. It was ninety feet long and forty feet high. The 
walls were hung with rose-red velvet and light was suffused 
through iridescent Tiffany glass chandeliers. South of the 
ballroom and up a few marble steps was the little balcony 
where the orchestra played. The dining room, which seated 
fifty with ease, had San Domingo mahogany paneling, inlaid 
floors and a great mahogany and crystal sideboard, at each 
side of which hung George P. A. Healy s paintings of Mr. 
and Mrs. Palmer. William B. Ogden had persuaded Healy to 
leave the court of Louis Philippe and return to Chicago. The 
artist became a good friend of the Palmers and often visited 
them. His portrait of Bertha was Palmer s favorite among 
many done of her. It was painted in her youth and had 
warmth and grace, as well as suggesting her intelligence. 

The house as a whole was a melange of styles and as the 



The Innkeepers Wife 55 

years went on Mrs. Palmer came home from Europe with 
fresh treasures to install, new pictures to hang on the walls, 
fine Chinese porcelains and antiques from many lands to 
enrich her collections. But at the first reception it seemed as 
if the castle could hold no more. Guests left with confused 
impressions of magnificent carvings; murals, archways and 
filigree; of brass chandeliers and garnet glass; of Venetian 
mosaic; of marble, stone and wrought iron; of onyx in the 
vestibule doors and huge fireplaces of marble and oak. There 
was comment on the absence of locks and doorknobs. Even 
Potter Palmer could not get into his citadel until a door was 
opened by a servant. Later on few guests left without a visit 
to the sixty-foot conservatory that was added to the house. 

Mrs. Palmer s bedroom, on the second floor, was of Moorish 
design, done in ebony and gold, with a paneled wainscot and 
carved ceiling. Her arched windows with cathedral glass 
were copied from the palace in Cairo. Smyrna rugs lay on the 
inlaid oak floor and three Moorish arches led to her dressing 
room, which was decorated in black and gold. She washed 
her face in an oval basin inlaid with a mother-of-pearl flower 
design. She bathed in a sunken tub shaped like a swan. All the 
bathroom fixtures had delicate flower designs in pastel colors 
and the ceiling was painted French gray. 

Bertha slept in a Louis XVI bed ten feet high with Nattier 
blue taffeta draperies. She received her intimates in a small 
French sitting room known as the White Room, and here she 
kept the gilded Florentine chests that she had brought home 
from her wedding trip. However late a function, she al 
ways glanced into her sons room in their early years to see 
that Honore and Potter were sleeping soundly. She took spe 
cial pride in having designed a sturdy setting for them. The 
woodwork was Hungarian ash and their furniture matched it, 
with decorative panels inlaid with a white holly design on 
ebony. 

No private home in Chicago s history was so much dis- 



f<$ Silhouette in Diamonds 

cussed. Visitors from distant points viewed it as one of the 
city s wonders and half a century later the site was pointed 
out to tourists. Cobb, the architect, disowned the massing of 
towers and Mrs. Palmer took care to tell her friends that she 
was away when the discordant sandstone was applied. This 
was one of Potter Palmer s building whims. There were many 
local jokes about the Palmer mansion but the era of rococo 
furnishings was in full swing, so that the effect was less jarring 
to contemporaries than it is today. Mrs. Palmer simplified her 
decor in her later homes. 

With the opening of Palmer Castle, as it came to be known, 
a new era had begun in Chicago hospitality. The parties given 
there became legendary for their style, novelty and the 
diversity of the guests. She welcomed the protagonists of 
many odd causes under her roof as well as foreign princes, 
statesmen, notable figures in every field, and the dowagers of 
the United States. Ward politicians, reformers, cranks, labor 
leaders, shopgirls, and all manner of zealots trooped through 
her reception rooms at one time or another, as well as such 
particular catches of hers as Benjamin Harrison, William Mc- 
Kinley and Ulysses S. Grant, who saw it only in its chrysalis 
stage since he died the year it was opened. 

The Potter Palmer house stood until 1950, when it was torn 
down to make way for a modern apartment house. It had long 
been in decline and was used as a Red Cross surgical dressing 
center during the Second World War, a use that Mrs. Palmer 
would have approved. Thomas Tallmadge called it the "man 
sion to end all mansions" in his Architecture in Old Chicago. 
"No citizen in Chicago or lover of her traditions or her beauty 
could see the towers of this castle overthrown without real 
sorrow," he commented. 

But the year they took up residence in their new home was 
a sad one in their family. General Grant died that summer on 
Mount McGregor after a long fight with cancer. Ida and 
Fred were with him constantly during the last weeks of his 



The Innkeeper s Wife 57 

life and Bertha got firsthand accounts from her sister while the 
papers day by day mirrored his march to the grave. Nellie had 
come home from England toward the end. His other sons, 
Ulysses S. Grant, II, and Jesse, were at his deathbed with their 
wives. Mrs. Palmer went east to attend the funeral services at 
Mount McGregor and in New York. She sat in the little 
parlor with General Sherman and Mrs. Grant while the Rev. 
Dr. John Philip Newman delivered the eulogy. Bertha had 
liked the General and had talked to him often on public issues. 
As an ardent Democrat she had taken issue with him on some 
of his policies but with unvarying courtesy. She had not 
always agreed with him about the men in whom he placed his 
trust. But his devotion to Ida and her own affection for Fred 
were mutual bonds. The General was less comfortable in the 
presence of Chicago s grande dame than he was with her sister 
Ida. But he liked to talk to her about Chicago and the Middle 
West and Mrs. Grant enjoyed the company of Fred s im 
posing sister-in-law. The military note was strong in Mrs. 
Palmer s circle possibly because of the Grant connections. 
Generals were much in evidence at her gatherings. General 
Philip H. Sheridan was always an honored guest and on more 
than one occasion she led the main column of the Charity Ball 
on the arm of General Nelson A. Miles. 

In the year following General Grant s death all Chicago 
was roused by the Haymarket riot, when the first anarchist 
bomb was thrown in America, killing one and wounding 
seventy-three. The police fired blindly in the dark. Radical cen 
ters were raided and hundreds were arrested. Eight anarchist 
leaders were tried and four were hanged. There was growing 
unrest among the workers. Socialism was spreading fast among 
them. The millionaires of Chicago had become a prime target 
for attack. 



!Mrs. Palmer Invades Europe 



Mrs. Potter Palmer drove through Hyde 
Park in a barouche with high-stepping chestnuts on a summer 
afternoon in 1891 and took cool surveillance of a scene of 
Victorian splendor. Her husband sat beside her, his gray 
topper tilted rakishly, his attention focused on the horses and 
equipages which were a sight in their ornate way. Gilded 
coaches did not drive through the parks of Chicago. 

The rhododendrons were in full bloom and the scents of 
June were in the air. The Duke and Duchess of Teck were out 
driving in a state coach with Princess May. Lady Brooke, 
whom Mrs. Palmer would know later on as the Countess of 
Warwick, stepped out of her carriage and settled herself in a 
chair beneath a shady tree. She had not yet been converted to 
socialism and was noted chiefly at the time as a great beauty 
and the friend of the Prince of Wales. 

Mrs. Palmer had a chance to observe her golden hair, her 
fragile complexion and magnificent bearing. It was her first 
glimpse of this famous beauty. Lady Brooke had silver buckles 
on her suede shoes and a veil dangled from her tilted pancake 
hat. Men on horseback drew up to chat with the fine ladies 



Mrs. f aimer Invades Europe 59 

seated in the shade, most of whom favored cool white China 
silk carriage gowns with clanking chatelaines. But the Palmers 
drove on. They had little time for dalliance. Mrs. Palmer had 
come to Europe at the end of May as chairman of the board 
of lady managers of the World s Columbian Exposition. Her 
purpose was to invoke the support of foreign rulers and gov 
ernment officials in women s exhibits for the Fair. She viewed 
the role of women for this event in large and inclusive terms. 
Not only did she plan to round up the best arts and crafts for 
a stunning display in the Woman s Building but she planned to 
bring together women of all nations and draw attention to 
their status. It was a bold conception for the early iSpo s. 

James G. Elaine, Secretary of State, became seriously ill just 
as he was about to alert the ministers abroad that Mrs. Potter 
Palmer was heading across the Atlantic. However, she found 
it easy enough to push through her plans without his aid. She 
knew a number of the ambassadors personally and Robert 
Todd Lincoln, an old friend and the son of Abraham Lincoln, 
made appointments for her in court circles. With the sanction 
of the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, she won the support of 
Princess Christian, third daughter of Queen Victoria. She 
tackled the British Royal Commission, which had among its 
members Sir Philip Owen, Sir Henry Wood and Sir Richard 
Webster, the Attorney General. The Prince of Wales was its 
president. All had worked for the Paris Exposition of 1889 
and they greeted Mrs. Palmer s proposals with cordiality. 

She spent her days holding meetings and her evenings in 
Victorian drawing rooms, letting all and sundry know what 
Chicago planned. The season was in full swing. Her husband 
went to the races. He haunted the clubs. He accompanied 
Bertha to the theater and met the peers of Britain with all the 
quiet and reserve that settled on him when exposed to titles 
and an acknowledged aristocracy. He frequently said that he 
was not a "society man," and no one disagreed with this. 
Although he had sold ribbons and rented rooms in his time 



60 Silhouette in Diamonds 

he had an independent spirit and a tough pride in his sound 
heritage. He was well aware that some of the dukes looked 
into space when he was around but he made no protest when 
his wife, who had more affinity for the peerage, insisted that 
he escort her to all the evening gatherings and saw to it that 
he was well primed on the political questions bound to come 
under discussion. Horses and racing made unfailing bait and 
the Chicagoan had a sure instinct for commerce. If he was not 
wholly at ease in the historic men s clubs of St. James s, 
where visiting Americans had to have special gifts or eccen 
tricities to make headway, he was never at a loss at a function 
with Cissie at hand to spread her own inimitable aura of 
assurance. 

Over the teacups she explained to Princess Christian what 
she planned for the Exposition. The Princess showed signs of 
alarm. She was opposed to extreme views of any kind and she 
saw at once that this dashing American was lending an ear to 
the dreadful women who were clamoring for something they 
called their "rights." 

Women should be trained only to care for their families, 
beautify the home and nurse the sick," said Princess Christian 
when Mrs. Palmer insisted that they should have a place in 
every profession and be paid as well as men. As the exponent 
of Queen Victoria s views she told Mrs. Palmer what she 
thought of the suffrage movement and said she could see no 
place for women in the learned professions. But she was will 
ing to concede their right to better wages in the occupations 
traditionally identified with their sex, and to anything that 
tended to make them better wives and mothers. At this time 
she headed the South Kensington School of Art Needlework, 
the Hospital Schools for Training Nurses and a number of 
industrial movements affecting women. 

In any event, the Princess was won by Mrs. Palmer s argu 
ments and personal force. She promised to head her commis 
sion in Britain and they ended up good friends. Thus Mrs. 



Mrs. Palmer Invades Europe 61 

Palmer forged a firm link with the court, although her own 
outlook on life was anything but Victorian. She soon found 
a fellow spirit in the Countess of Aberdeen, who was busy 
developing the cottage industries of Ireland and Scotland and 
proposed setting up an Irish village at the Exposition. She had 
a letter from Frances E. Willard to Lady Henry Somerset, 
who was interested in the temperance movement in England 
and had established homes for wayward girls. Finally her 
committee was complete and was set up under the patronage 
of the Queen. Its members were Princess Christian, the Duchess 
of Abercorn, the Marchioness of Salisbury, the Countess of 
Aberdeen, Lady Somerset, Lady Brassey, Lady Knutsford, 
Mrs. Bedford-Fenwick, Mrs. Millicent Fawcett, the Baroness 
Burdett-Coutts, and Lady Jeune, who had once maintained a 
literary salon frequented by Tennyson, Browning and Mat 
thew Arnold. Thus Mrs. Palmer had neatly worked in some 
suffrage leaders and bohemian spirits along with traditional 
Victorians. 

Her diplomacy was even more successful in Paris, where she 
had good groundwork. The committee of women who had 
worked for the Paris Exposition had "basked in the full sun 
shine of official power," she noted, and they were eager to 
extend their field of operations to the United States. She 
addressed forty-two of the most influential women of France 
as well as senators and deputies. Wrapped in a plush mantle 
lined with apricot silk she attended the opera with President 
Carnot. She had a long interview with his wife at the Palace 
of the lysee. She found her "sympathetic and charming" but, 
like Princess Christian, a conservative about suffrage and 
women flaunting their powers outside of the home. Again Mrs. 
Palmer had to use persuasive force to get her way. Madame 
Carnot had never served on a French committee but she 
finally agreed to head the woman s work in France for the 
Columbian Exposition. Bertha talked in turn to Madame Yves- 
Guyot, wife of the Minister of Public Works, and Madame 



62 Silhouette in Diamonds 

Bogelot, who had represented France at the International 
Council of Women held two years earlier in Washington. 

But she made a quick kill with the statesmen of France. 
Both Jules Simon and Jules Siegfried, influential senators, 
listened to her attentively, as did their wives. Antoine Proust, 
who had been appointed French Fine Arts Director for the 
Columbian Exposition and was a member of the Chamber 
of Deputies, was much impressed. Her most significant quarry, 
however, was Jules Roche, Minister of Commerce. She and 
Mrs. John A. Logan tackled him together, two eloquent Amer 
ican women pitted against a Frenchman who could not see 
the validity of separate exhibits in a separate woman s build 
ing. Why should women stand apart from men in a matter 
of this sort? 

Mrs. Palmer quickly whipped out some preliminary sketches 
for a woman s building and told him a few home truths in 
perfect French. She was not only convincing but she was the 
most fashionably turned-out woman who had ever sat in his 
office and discussed big plans with him in a businesslike way. 
M. Roche was stampeded. The ultimate result of this interview 
was the appointment of the desired woman s commission, and 
a government appropriation of 200,000 francs for its expenses 
a larger sum than the board of lady managers had yet re 
ceived from Congress. 

The Palmers stayed at the Grand Hotel and Bertha took 
time to stock up on gowns with the ruchings, wide belts and 
glittering embroidery of the period. The new Medici collars 
suited her to perfection as they rose above her jewels with 
Elizabethan majesty. Her husband was welcomed back at 
Tiffany s. He never went to Paris without buying new jewels 
for Cissie and on this occasion the tiaras, parures and stomach 
ers of the British peeresses had sparked off striking additions 
to a collection already well under way. 

Theodore Stanton, the son of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who 
was resident commissioner in Paris for the Columbian Expo- 



Mrs. Palmer Invades Europe 6$ 

sition, opened many doors for his visiting compatriots but 
Palmer passed most of his time seeking art for the Fair. Before 
leaving home he had promised Charles L. Hutchinson, presi 
dent of the Art Institute of Chicago, that he would scout for 
him. Although Mrs. Palmer gets the major credit for introduc 
ing modern art to Chicago, her husband was equally alert and 
potent in this undertaking. He was a merchant in art as in all 
else. Like others of his affluent associates in the Middle West 
he had cultivated an interest in pictures, and had decided views 
about what he liked. While Bertha was busy conferring with 
French statesmen he visited art dealers, galleries and studios 
with Sara T. Hallowell, who was his wife s liaison in Paris 
on all questions involving art for the Woman s Building of 
the Exposition. Sara was pushing the Impressionists and was 
an established agent operating on behalf of the artists and deal 
ers. Well-off Americans were her natural quarry and she had 
already done some work for the Potter Palmers. 

Before they left Paris Bertha commissioned Mary Cassatt 
and Mary Fairchild MacMonnies, wife of Frederick MacMon- 
nies, to do two large mural paintings for the tympana at either 
end of the main gallery in the Woman s Building. The di 
rectors had voted six thousand dollars for this purpose. Mac 
Monnies was already at work on his fountain for the Exposi 
tion and Sara Hallowell considered it u wondrously beautiful," 
an early impression later confirmed by the public. 

From Paris the Palmers went to Vienna. Fred Grant by this 
time was the United States Minister there and he and Ida were 
in high favor at the Austrian court. Potter watched approv 
ingly while his wife danced Viennese waltzes on home ground 
with gold-laced officers and was entertained by royalty. Julia 
was now a lanky girl of fifteen who spoke the Viennese patois 
as fluently as she did French. Little Ulysses was attending 
the Theresianum, founded by the Empress Maria Theresa. 

Ida was immensely popular in the Viennese capital but it 
was not a propitious moment for Mrs. Palmer s mission. Austria 



^4 Silhouette in Diamonds 

had broken off relations with the United States over the 
McKinley tariff act. The pearl button makers who exported 
most of their product to the United States were thrown out 
of work in great numbers. Mass meetings were held and 
measures were taken to relieve their distress. Although anxious 
to advance the interests of the Exposition, Fred did not con 
sider it the time to push the matter officially. But Ida intro 
duced her sister to Princess Metternich and other women 
interested in the native crafts, who formed a commission to 
work for the Fair. 

Mrs. Palmer s proposals were warmly received by Queen 
Marie Henriette of Belgium and Queen Margherita of Italy. 
Both agreed at once to head committees, and eventually Bel 
gium sent over monographs and charts with such figures as 
had never before been compiled on woman s status in that 
country. This was just what Mrs. Palmer desired. Queen 
Margherita directed the work personally in Italy and offered 
her priceless collection of laces which had never been shown 
outside of the country. Some of them dated a thousand years 
before Christ and were taken from Egyptian and Etruscan 
tombs. It was agreed that the laces and crafts of contemporary 
Italian women should be well represented beside the ancient 
treasures. 

Mrs. Palmer returned to London satisfied with the results 
of her negotiations on the Continent, and she and Potter at 
tended the final musicale of the season, held at Mrs. Ronald s 
home in Cadogan Place. Nordica sang and Mile. Thenier of 
the Theatre Franjais gave a monologue. Mrs. Bradley Martin 
was present in turquoise blue silk with fringes of jet and a 
tiny bonnet of jet tipped with blue plumes. Mrs. John W. 
Mackay chatted with Mrs. Palmer, nodding her gold lace 
bonnet with lilac sprays in her hearty way as they exchanged 
American gossip. It was evident to all that the visitor from 
Chicago had made her presence felt in London society. Eng 
lish women noted how dashing she was, how smoothly she 
worked, how quickly she had won royal approval. 



Mr?. Palmer Invades Europe 65 

By this time she justly felt that she was better off working 
by herself than with the aid of the State Department, which 
would have functioned with less speed and daring than she 
had applied to her diplomatic negotiations. "Working as I 
did, through the people of the country, and making the direct 
appeal with and through them, the matter was only semi-offi 
cial and we were, at the same time, much more strongly forti 
fied," she reported back to her board. 

Mrs. Palmer s operations had gone deeper than anyone 
realized when she stepped off the Normannia in New York 
early in July, 1891, and gave the ship news reporters a modest 
account of her successes. Her trip to Europe was followed 
by an avalanche of letters and circulars sent out in French, 
German, Spanish and English, and a close combing of notable 
women from Dublin to Tokyo. By the time forty-one coun 
tries responded favorably Mrs. Palmer was able to say to 
her board: "We are now possessed of the most powerful 
organization that has ever existed among women." 

Japan had been slow to respond until the Empress took a 
hand and headed a committee. Denmark declined to participate 
at first but relented. The Empress of Russia personally as 
sembled an exhibit of laces, embroideries and national cos 
tumes. It was all much more than Mrs. Palmer had expected 
and it surprised the officials of the Exposition. Her fellow 
commissioners had been doubtful that women around the 
globe, poor backward things, would respond. But fresh from 
her stimulating encounters abroad Mrs. Palmer crisply pointed 
out that American women had nothing like the political power 
of their English sisters; that Russia had numerous colleges and 
institutions of higher learning for its women; that Denmark 
had noted women scientists; that during the golden "cinque- 
cento" Italy had women professors, doctors, lawyers and writ 
ers; that France was as far ahead in women s affairs as the 
United States and had noted women orators, and that Austria 
had prosperous institutions and industries founded by women. 

She also wanted the world to know that although queens, 



66 Silhouette in Diamonds 

princesses and duchesses seemed to have caught the limelight, 
no one must think that the foreign committees represented 
only royalty and the influence of government. All classes were 
represented and many of the guiding spirits were women 
who had risen by their own unaided talents. She deplored the 
fact that Tunis, Syria and various Oriental countries could 
not participate because of the subjugation of their women 
and the lack of organization among them. But the harem 
veil was lifted by timid hands, and individuals signaled across 
the seas though their governments were silent. 

Mrs. Palmer viewed the Exposition as something broader 
than a passing spectacle. She believed it could help to improve 
the lot of women around the world. She considered it a prime 
opportunity for every country involved to appraise its woman 
strength in statistics. She planned a worldwide survey of the 
actual status of women in industry, in education, in the arts 
and in business. From New York to Siarn women soon were 
scurrying around trying to assemble hardtack information for 
Mrs. Potter Palmer, often where it had never before been 
garnered. "Oh, how she could drive us, day and night," com 
mented one of her committee workers. "She not only worked 
herself but made others labor, too. As a committee chairman, 
I ve never seen her equal." 

Mrs. Palmer projected the thought that they would set back 
the clock half a century for women if they did not realize 
the solemn nature of the trust placed in their hands. "If we 
live up to the possibilities we shall open a new era for them," 
she added. "Can we forget ourselves, and our personal ambi 
tions and littlenesses, and be worthy of the work we have been 
called to do?" 

But she soon encountered a chilling dash of littleness 
in her own empire. She returned from Europe to find that 
a situation she had left smoldering had burst into flame again 
on her return. She had survived her first sharp tilt with women 
practiced in strategic intrigue when she fired the corresponding 



Mrs. Palmer Invades Europe 67 

secretary, Miss Phoebe W. Couzins, who had all but broken up 
the board of lady managers. From the start Miss Couzins, a 
lawyer and prominent suffragist, had assailed everyone con 
nected with the management of the Fair, and Mrs. Potter 
Palmer in particular. Finally the board dropped her on charges 
of misconduct and neglect of duty just before its chairman 
left for England. 

Phoebe promptly brought suit in the Circuit Court and 
lost her case. But many of the leading suffragists were behind 
her and the breach brought headlines in the nation s press. 
Mrs. Isabella Beecher Hooker led the attack. This veteran 
fighter for women s rights had backed Clara Barton for the 
presidency and Mrs. John A. Logan for the vice presidency 
of the board of lady managers. When Mrs. Palmer was elected 
unanimously she bowed to the inevitable and conceded that 
perhaps it was a good idea to have a prominent Chicago woman 
hold this office. She even paid her a public tribute as a young 
woman inexperienced in public duty of any sort who had 
managed their "large, untrained, deliberative body with the 
firmness and skill worthy of an old parliamentarian" and had 
proved herself to be the peer of any man at the Fair in her 
capacity for business and enthusiastic devotion to her work. 

However, Mrs. Hooker soon piped another tune. She 
criticized Mrs. Palmer s method of selecting committees. She 
accused her of being cavalier about accepting the advice of 
women seasoned in long campaigns. She thought the South 
ern states should have better representation on the commit 
tees. But above all she raged over the dismissal of Phoebe 
Couzins, whom she had backed for the secretaryship. In the 
midst of all the luxury and approval of her stay in London 
Bertha opened her mail one morning and found an insulting 
tirade from Mrs. Hooker. The board, which should have used 
its power to bring honor to all womanhood, had been "prac 
tically annihilated," wrote the aged suffragist. She would not 
criticize her in public, Mrs. Hooker added. She would simply 



68 Silhouette in Diamonds 

resign and she had no wish to meet her face to face to discuss 
the situation, as Mrs. Palmer had proposed. 

Bertha was mollifying at first, remembering that Mrs. 
Hooker was about to celebrate her golden wedding anniver 
sary. But after a few more letters she grew indignant. To 
say that the board was "practically annihilated" was noth 
ing short of ridiculous, she pointed out, when every day she 
had practical evidence that it was growing in power and 
prestige. She felt that she was in a better position than anyone 
to judge its status at that time. Mrs. Palmer assured Mrs. 
Hooker that she was well aware from the bylaws that she 
could be dropped from the board at any moment, and added: 
"I beg you to believe, my dear Mrs. Hooker, that you do me 
great injustice in thinking that I have one standard of justice 
for myself and another for others." 

But the wrangling went on, with Mrs. Palmer sitting at 
the top of the tree and refusing to get herself entangled in the 
poisonous weeds of controversy. Mrs. Logan scolded her for 
indulging Mrs. Hooker, whom she considered the most dan 
gerous element in their board, and "full of parliamentary trick 
ery and dodges that she would not hesitate to use to further 
her peculiar notions." Mrs. Julia Ward Howe quickly came 
to Bertha s support, recalling some of her own bitter experi 
ences when running the woman s end of the Cotton Exposi 
tion in New Orleans. The suffragists with whom she worked 
had always been against Miss Couzins, she told her soothingly, 
finding her "full of conceit, arrogance and assumption." She 
quoted the Apostle Paul on Mary Lockwood, the author who 
served on the history, literature and education committee of 
the board, as being a lady of "sounding brass." Mrs. Lockwood 
had backed Miss Couzins appointment but her letters to Mrs. 
Palmer were aglow with flattery and applause. 

Mary commented on the chairman s tranquil exterior during 
the uproar that prevailed at the September meeting in 1891, 
when Phoebe Couzins and other controversial issues came 



Mrs-. Palmer Invades Europe 69 

under discussion. Mrs. Palmer, who never in her life in 
dulged in a public scene, had gone the length of saying in an 
outraged tone: "Certain ladies mortify me. 7 A few of the 
board members had wept over the abuse leveled at their leader. 
In the midst of it all, one woman jumped to her feet, waved 
her arms toward Mrs. Palmer and cried excitedly: "You 
our queen." The chairman of the board drove home that night 
quite clearly the victor. 

In the midst of all this uproar Mrs. Palmer was hostess to 
Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant for the unveiling of the equestrian 
statue of the General in Lincoln Park on October 7, 1891. 
Together they watched the remains of the Army of the Ten 
nessee march past as they sat under an awning on the Palmer 
porte-cochere. Flags floated from the tower and the stone 
walls were checkered with streamers of red, white and blue. 
When Mrs. Grant moved from her seat to get a better view 
of the ships on the lake which were firing salutes, the crowd 
came to life with a tremendous ovation. 

The fourth division of the parade halted in front of the 
house and she and Mrs. Palmer rode the rest of the way with 
the soldiers, applauded all along the route of march. It was 
Mrs. Grant s first visit to Chicago since her return from her 
world tour with the General and there was great interest in 
the widow s appearance at the unveiling ceremonies. After 
ward a reception was held at the Palmer House, with the vet 
erans bowing one by one over Mrs. Grant s lace-mittened 
hand. Mrs. Palmer made it clear to all that no allusion should 
be made to the past, lest she break down. Potter Palmer drove 
her personally to and from the station when she came to share 
in one of Chicago s biggest memorial days. 

By this time Mrs. Palmer s name was constantly in the 
papers. She had become a prominent national figure. Her board 
of 115 women included physicians, temperance workers, suf 
fragists, business women, lawyers, artists, writers, community 
leaders and the wives of prominent men. It was a heterogeneous 



70 Silhouette in Diamonds 

group difficult to fuse into a whole, and a number of the pro 
fessional women were inclined to view their chairman at first 
as a wealthy dilettante until they felt the lash of her whip. 
She told them briskly at the outset that they must leave the 
narrow boundaries of their individual lives and give their 
hearts and minds to the aspirations of others. She wanted no 
drones in her camp. Anyone who could not give full time to 
the work must say so at once. As she saw it, they were all 
entering on a larger sisterhood. 

They were soon aware that a formidable figure had risen 
among them a woman who showed up at their meetings 
dressed in the height of fashion, with jewels, soft speech and 
a persuasive way when points had to be won, either from men 
or women. She was a new type for this sort of work and they 
expected her to bend under pressure. But she stood firm and 
worked harder than any of them. She mowed down opposi 
tion or zoomed over it with bland superiority. Many were 
seasoned campaigners but she had the advantage of a subtle 
approach and her husband s great fortune behind her. She 
quickly learned her own lessons in strategy and felt the power 
of her position. Temperamentally, she was ambitious, tireless 
and keen. But, above all, Bertha Palmer had radiant health 
and vitality. No one who knew her intimately ever heard her 
say that she had a headache, or felt depressed, or had aches 
and pains, until the last months of her life, when she lived 
in perpetual anguish. She was usually too busy to give much 
thought to minor ills affecting the body. It was her habit to be 
on the job, early and late, her attention focused on a thousand 
details. Others around her grew tired and faltered. But she 
pushed on and pushed them with her. 

There were times when the commissioners as a whole wished 
that Mrs. Palmer and her board were at the bottom of the 
lake. She waged her battles so convincingly that she frequently 
put them in the wrong. She had to stand up to the National 
Columbian Commission, representing all the states, and to the 



Mrs. Palmer Invades Europe 77 

Directory, which built the Fair. Although conceding the neces 
sity for a board of women, neither body was willing to share 
labors and honors with them, nor to grant them any but a 
decorative role. They were not given representation on the 
joint committee which actually governed the Exposition. No 
funds were allotted them at first. Their only privilege in the 
beginning was the right of representation on award juries. But 
Mrs. Palmer ignored the implications that the Woman s Build 
ing was a negligible quantity and set out to make it the most 
distinctive area of the Fair. 

She had to wring every concession from this reluctant 
group, some of whom knew her well on the social front. Their 
soft-voiced hostess surprised some of the Fair s commissioners 
in defending the interests of women so vigorously. They found 
her shrewd, unyielding and imperturbable as she demanded 
places on the award committees, more space for exhibitors, in 
dependence of action, larger funds and full recognition for 
the Woman s Building. She went to Springfield in the teeth of 
the gale over Miss Couzins and talked the legislators into 
an appropriation of eighty thousand dollars. She went to 
Washington and blitzed the Congressional Investigation Com 
mittee of the Fair. Mrs. Logan had warned her that Congress 
did not "receive suggestions from ladies favorably." But she 
charmed Senator J. W. Candler, chairman of the Fair com 
mittee, and his fellow Senators with her eloquence and prag 
matism. She talked fluently of the utility and value of the 
women s plans; of the worldwide interest they would create 
through bringing exhibits from every country and presenting 
evidence of woman s status throughout the world. 

When Mrs. Potter Palmer walked into an office, in molded 
bodice and trim hat, with all her vitality, dash and soft-voiced 
eloquence, she overrode opposition. After two meetings with 
the committee, the site and an appropriation of $200,000 were 
voted for a woman s building. When questioned by Daniel 
Burnham, chief of construction for the Fair buildings, about 



72 Silhouette in Diamonds 

her wish to have a woman architect design their section, she 
whipped out a silver pencil and rapidly sketched the interior 
arrangement of a building two hundred by five hundred feet. 
A contest was soon under way to find the woman architect. 

One of her toughest battles was fought over awards. She 
thought the artisan should be recognized as well as the manu 
facturer. Excited exhibitors called on Mrs. Palmer to expostu 
late. The official heads of the Exposition united to protest and 
objections were forwarded to Congress. She wrote to members 
of both Houses explaining the motives for her stand. The com 
missioners were then forced to beg an audience with her. They 
were arguing the matter when a telegram arrived for her from 
Washington. 

She let the commissioners talk on. They insisted that Con 
gress should await their pleasure on the issue. At last she 
quietly announced: "Well, gentlemen, it seems impossible for 
us to agree on this point, and there is really no need of further 
discussion, for I arn informed that the proposed measure is 
now a law." She handed the commissioners the telegram she 
had been holding. In the end the "diploma of honorable 
mention" for which she had fought resulted in great popularity 
among the workers for the board of lady managers. 

Soon after that she was able to report to the board on the 
advances made in the first year. Congress had given a liberal 
appropriation. The Directory had approved their building. 
The Fair Commission had given them the right to take entire 
charge of all women s interests, whether in their own building 
or elsewhere. By this time they had more scope and power 
than they had expected. The seeds that Mrs. Palmer had 
planted in Europe were bearing fruit, too. Theodore Stanton 
wrote to her just before Christmas, 1891, that Proust was 
working hard for her and that her work would be discussed 
at a banquet Frederic Bartholdi was giving at the Hotel Con 
tinental for Whitelaw Reid. 

She urged George P. A. Healy to try his persuasion on the 



Mrs. Palmer Invades Europe 75 

Queen of Rumania on behalf of the lady managers. Healy said 
he would but wrote to Mrs. Palmer: c We are told not to put 
our trust in Princes, but this lady, like yourself, is an excep 
tion to all rules." She invited the Archduchess Maria 
Theresa of Austria to come to the Fair. She called from time 
to time on President Benjamin Harrison to keep his interest 
alight in the doings of the lady managers. His daughter, Mrs. 
J. R. McKee, always welcomed her cordially at the White 
House, which at that time was overflowing with women rela 
tives of the Harrison family. The President s daughter-in-law, 
Mrs. Russell Harrison, was on Mrs. Palmer s board and they 
were good friends. 

The lady managers functioned from a utilitarian office in 
the Rand-McNally Building. Mrs. Palmer was in her element, 
directing operations and keeping a sharp eye on the larger 
issues. She was a good executive and with a quick flick of her 
pen would delegate work where it belonged. The board was 
flooded with requests of every kind, but Bertha adopted a 
tough policy in selecting personnel for the state committees. 
She sounded out their capacities and tastes. Women wrote of 
their knowledge of floriculture, horticulture, needlework, the 
domestic arts, music, letters, ceramics, laces and handicrafts in 
volunteering for state committee work. They professed a 
little knowledge of French, of German, of drawing, of car 
pentry, of cooking, of products done in wood, stone, glass, 
marble and granite. Nearly all limited their choice to three or 
four committees, involving philanthropy, decorative art, music 
or education. Mrs. Palmer was delighted when one woman 
showed an interest in the Department of Fisheries and another 
volunteered for work in the electrical division. 

She pleaded for fresh thought and ingenuity instead of the 
time-worn type of exhibit. She was cold to benevolence in 
selecting offerings. She wanted the best of everything and a 
solid showing. The sentimental and charitable point of view, 
she told her board, must be subdued to marked excellence, 



74 Silhouette in Diamonds 

"without reference to the private sorrows of the producers. " 
Otherwise the Woman s Building would represent the in 
capacity rather than the competence of their sex. 

All too many wrote about inherited laces, about linen spun 
by their mothers and tatting done by Great Aunt Matilda. 
Indigent ladies with good family connections sprang up from 
everywhere. Friends, relatives, strangers, pulled every string 
to get in on the wonders of the Fair. "Thank very much for 
picture sent very good of all of them shall value it highly and 
it was very kind of her to send it," Mrs. Palmer wrote in her 
dashing script across the back of an envelope for the benefit 
of her secretary. Susan B. Anthony begged for more floor 
space for the suffragists and got it. "I knew if it were in your 
power you would give us room commensurate with our pro 
portions," Miss Anthony wrote approvingly. She and Anna 
Howard Shaw were two of the suffrage leaders who worked 
well with Mrs. Palmer. Mrs. Margaret F. Sullivan objected to 
the lady managers being presented as holding Queen Victoria 
in "deep and universal esteem and admiration" in connection 
with the Countess of Aberdeen s cottage industries. She, for 
one, felt that the Queen had "not been helpful to women al 
though England is ready to follow any lead in that direction." 

Mrs. Palmer settled each request with a quick decision. She 
was urged to make speeches, to travel to different places. Soon 
she was the focal point of a growing empire. Saint-Gaudens 
selected the seal used by the board of lady managers from 
designs sent in by women. He also approved the official badge 
bearing the motto "Juncti valemus (United we prevail)." 
There was trouble about the Isabella coin, however, for the 
women felt that a kneeling figure, with a distaff in her hand, 
was not in the spirit of the contemporary woman. 

But Mrs. Palmer s great triumph was the Woman s Building 
itself. It overlooked the lagoon and was designed in the style of 
the Italian Renaissance, with balconies, loggias and touches of 
gold to relieve its snowy interior. The winner of the contest 



Mrs. Palmer Invades Europe 75- 

was Miss Sophia G. Hayden, a graduate of the Massachusetts 
School of Technology. This young woman was the first of her 
sex to design an important public building in the United States 
and when she had changed some of her original plans and 
added a roof garden at Mrs. Palmer s request, Richard M. 
Hunt, president of the Society of American Architects, was 
enthusiastic in his approval of the Woman s Building. The 
board had voluntarily relinquished the chance to have it de 
signed by Hunt, in order to show their confidence in the ability 
of their own sex. 

The building was two stories high and had land and water 
entrances. Its Hall of Honor, unbroken v by supports, rose 
seventy feet in height and was inscribed in gold with the 
names of women great in art, in music, in science, in stagecraft 
and in letters. Side by side with the sovereigns of Europe- 
Isabella, Elizabeth and Victoriawere the names of the 
workers, the seers, the pioneers. 

It was Mrs. Palmer who suggested the general plan of the 
interior and entrusted its decoration to women sculptors and 
painters. A girl of twenty-two made the models of the caryat 
ids supporting the cornice of the roof garden, and women 
decorators, wood carvers and other specialists were invited to 
submit their work to the board. Mrs. Palmer thought she was 
particularly fortunate in having the brilliant Mary Cassatt do 
one of her murals. Her name was quite unknown in the United 
States at this time although her reputation among French 
artists was growing. She was a rich American girl who had 
shed the conservatism of her Philadelphia home and gone 
abroad to study art in Italy. By this time she was part of the 
artistic set in Paris and the friend of Degas. The sight of one 
of his pictures in an art dealer s shop window had changed her 
life. "I saw art then as I wanted to see it," she wrote to Mrs. 
H. O. Havemeyer. After that she worked hard to get the 
paintings of the Barbizon school and the Impressionists into 
the drawing rooms of affluent Americans. She and Degas quar- 



j6 Silhouette in Diamonds 

reled and made up, and argued and admired each other s work, 
and between them gave modern art fresh impetus. 

Mrs. Palmer had no hesitancy about giving Miss Cassatt the 
commission. An American woman artist endowed with real 
talent made an irresistible combination to this quick-witted 
impresario. Not having space like Frederick MacMonnies, who 
was using four studios to make his fountain for the Fair, with 
scaffolding and a score of assistants to help him put through his 
colossal project, Miss Cassatt built a large glass-roofed build 
ing at her summer home. Rather than work on a ladder she 
had the canvas lowered into an excavation in the ground when 
she wished to work on the upper part of her painting. 

Sara Hallowell was so sure of Mary Cassatt s technique that 
she let her alone to work as she wished. "Since Miss Cassatt 
makes no sketch, it is all right to leave her work to my ap 
proval, but so far as Mrs. MacMonnies is concerned, I think it 
better for her to submit a sketch since she makes no objection 
to doing so," Sara wrote to Mrs. Palmer. 

In the end Miss Cassatt s mural was called Modern Woman 
and Mary MacMonnies Primitive Woman. There was some 
apprehension among board members about the Cassatt contri 
bution. Would it be freakish, or shocking, or an offense to the 
conventional-minded? In the end there were no raised eye 
brows over the flat, inconspicuous figures adorned with pas 
toral symbols. Miss Cassatt s mural has since been lost to 
view. 

Twenty-five of the panels in the Woman s Building were 
the work of American women and they were among the most 
discussed features of the Fair. The building was finished for 
forty thousand dollars less than the appropriation. This sum 
was then absorbed for interior finishing. When the National 
Commission, out of funds, sought to apply the woman s surplus 
to general use Mrs. Palmer appealed to the Treasury Depart 
ment, which promptly gave her board full control of its appro 
priations, including the hundred thousand dollars allowed for 



Mrs. Palmer Invades Europe 77 

awards. By this time her business acumen had become an 
irritant to the directorate. 

As the building approached completion the caryatids and 
pediments done by women were placed in position and Mrs. 
Palmer reported to her board on October 18, 1892: "While 
our building is smaller and less expensive than most of the 
others, its scholarly composition, beautiful proportions, re 
fined and reserved details, hold their own, even when con 
sidered in comparison with the ornate creations of the great 
architects represented on the Exposition grounds. It is remark 
able as being the first creation of a young girl." 

All around the Woman s Building other snowy edifices were 
going up. The Greek motif had been agreed on for the Exposi 
tion, so that a White City rose like a mirage along the 
lake s south shore. It covered an area of 586 acres in Jackson 
Park. The Midway, a narrow strip of ground a mile long, con 
nected it with Washington Park. Frederick L. Olmsted and 
his partner, Henry Sargent Codrnan, directed the landscaping 
and soon winding walks, drives and waterways, avenues, 
statuary, fountains and bridges spread over the waste area. 
Aquatic plants lined the waterways. A citrus grove, a peach 
garden and a cranberry patch became part of the scene. 

The nation s leading architects, sculptors and painters 
worked under the direction of the dynamic and businesslike 
Burnham in putting together the Columbian Exposition. As 
she went to the grounds to study the progress of her own 
building Mrs. Palmer had many friendly exchanges with 
Richard M. Hunt, Louis H. Sullivan, Charles F. McKim, 
William R. Mead, John Wellborn Root and William Le Baron 
Jenney. Being artists they were all interested in what the lady 
managers were up to, and no one at the Fair was likely to 
ignore Mrs. Potter Palmer. They dined at her home. They 
listened to her views. Sometimes they told her frankly what 
they thought of her building. There were those who said it was 
too clearly a copy, but she stood behind Miss Hayden until 



7# Silhouette in Diamonds 

Hunt led the chorus of applause. The sculptors whose work 
embellished the buildings and grounds included Saint-Gaudens, 
Frederick W. MacMonnies, Daniel Chester French, Paul W. 
Bartlett, Karl T. F. Bitter and Lorado Taft. 

Saint-Gaudens called it "the greatest gathering of artists 
since the fifteenth century" when they all assembled at Kins 
ley s. They worked through blizzards and summer storms, 
only half -believing that the buildings could rise in two years 
from the sand dunes, wild-oak ridges and icy swamps that they 
first surveyed in January, 1891. Root died almost as soon as the 
work began. The others lived and slept for the Fair and had 
a summer camp where they clustered in groups suggestive of 
the Latin Quarter. Eighteen workmen were killed and there 
were seven hundred accidents before the domes and towers 
of a dozen exhibition halls and more than two hundred smaller 
buildings were ready for dedication. Saint-Gaudens pro 
nounced the Palace of Fine Arts, designed by Charles B. 
Atwood, the "greatest achievement since the Parthenon. * It 
later became the home of the Field Columbian Museum and 
in 1933 the Museum of Science and Industry. 

Next to the Woman s Building rose the Children s Building, 
also largely the work of the board of lady managers. Mrs. 
Palmer threw open her home in December, 1892, for the 
Columbian Bazaar of All Nations, organized to raise funds for 
this extra edifice. The bazaar in itself was a miniature fair. For 
three days the public trooped through the rooms of the Palmer 
mansion and a good many silver spoons went out with them. 
The sum of $35,000 was raised for the cause, however. 
Mothers and educators all over the country worked for this 
building and every child who subscribed received a printed 
certificate stamped with the gold seal of the board. 

The dedication ceremonies for the Exposition as a whole 
were held on October 20, 21 and 22, 1892, and began with a 
great ball and banquet at which Mrs. Palmer presided like a 
queen, gowned in yellow satin and velvet. A watchful re- 



Mrs. Palmer Invades Europe 7p 

porter of the period wrote that she rose like a calla lily from 
puffs of velvet, gleaming with crystal and gold embroidery. 
Ropes of magnificent pearls hung from her throat. Her dark 
hair was crowned with a diamond tiara. She led a parade of 
patronesses who trooped in to the "Coronation March" played 
by Sousa s Band. The procession was a long and brilliant one, 
with the colors of Ferdinand and Isabella in flags, in costumes, 
in lights. Edison s invention was still a novel plaything to the 
crowds. 

Next day was gray and cloudy as General Nelson A. Miles 
led a great parade to Jackson Park. School children marched 
with Civil War veterans. Bands played and the streets were 
alive with color. Stores had massive tableaux on their fronts 
celebrating in one way or another Columbus discovery of 
America four hundred years earlier. The buildings were only 
half -finished and the Fair grounds still looked chaotic when 
the main dedication ceremony was held in the Manufacturers 
Building. Cardinal Gibbons blessed the Exposition. Chauncey 
M. Depew delivered the Columbian oration with a graceful 
bow to the lady managers. "It was a happy omen of the posi 
tion which woman was to hold in America," he said, "that 
the only person who comprehended the majestic scope of his 
plans, and the invincible quality of his genius, was the able and 
gracious Queen of Castile." 

A chorus of five hundred had just thundered the "Hallelujah 
Chorus" and the "Columbia March" when Mrs. Potter Palmer 
was presented by the director general of the Exposition. Great 
applause burst out as she stood before them, not tall, yet quite 
impressive in her bearing. She picked up Chauncey Depew s 
theme and smartly made the point that inspired though the 
visions of Columbus might have been, he needed the aid of an 
Isabella to transform them into realities. The crowd listened 
in absolute silence as she announced in low melodic tones that 
official representation for women on so important an occasion 
was unprecedented. The group she represented was worldwide 



8o Silhouette in Diamonds 

in scope. Its basic intention was to create public sentiment in 
favor of woman s industrial equality with man. Mrs. Palmer s 
speech was neither high-flown nor rhetorical. She confined 
herself to simple statements of fact, finishing with a slight nip 
and a note of challenge: "Even more important than the dis 
covery of Columbus, which we are gathered together to 
celebrate, is the fact that the General Government has just 
discovered woman." 

The Woman s Building was duly blessed in its white sanctity 
and the crowd of 75,000 scattered. Chicago by this time had 
more than a million inhabitants, with the German element pre 
dominating. But twenty-seven other nationalities were present 
in the crowd that surveyed the rising buildings of the Fair. 
The city had been growing up in the days since Bertha Honore 
first saw it in 1855. Thirty-seven years had passed and she 
had watched many changes. The Woman s Temple of red 
granite and brick now towered at La Salle and Monroe streets. 
The Pullman building was a landmark, and the Rookery, eleven 
stories high, had thirteen thousand people moving through its 
doors each day. 

Chicago by this time had more than two thousand miles of 
streets and covered nearly eighteen thousand acres. There were 
seventy-five miles of drives and the boulevard system that 
Henry Honore had fostered circled the city, with many hand 
some parks interlocking. Lincoln Park stretched along Lake 
Michigan for at least two miles and its drives, its walks, its 
monuments, its inland lake, palm house, mineral spring and 
racing boulevard, drew thousands every month. There were 
open-air concerts, with Verdi, Strauss and Wagnerian music 
to delight the crowds that gathered. Charles T. Yerkes elec 
tric fountain tossing sprays of prismatically illuminated water 
was still a nine-day wonder. The city had thirty-two good 
theaters, and concerts and lectures were given at the Central 
Music Hall. Opera was an accepted fact by the population 
and there was growing interest in art. 



Mrs, Palmer Invades Europe 81 

Michigan Avenue, where Bertha had lived when she mar 
ried Potter Palmer, was a blaze of color as carriages bowled 
along it on the day of the dedication ceremonies. It was still a 
fashionable thoroughfare but as she drove under her own 
porte-cochere on Lake Shore Drive she had little doubt that 
the Exposition would further speed the development of Chi 
cago and add to the city s fame. It would also give luster to 
the name of Mrs. Potter Palmer. 



World s Columbian Exposition 



President Cleveland pushed an electric but 
ton at the Columbian Exposition on a May morning in 1893. 
The flags of forty-seven nations broke out simultaneously and 
whipped briskly in the breeze off the lake. The standard of 
Castile flew over the Administration Building beside the Stars 
and Stripes. The White City quivered with life. The Mac- 
Monnies fountain, with its rowing maidens, gushed sparkling 
water. Draperies slipped from the Statue of Liberty, leaving 
the colossal gilded figure in high relief. Guns boomed from 
warships in the harbor. Foghorns and sirens blasted through 
the triumphant music of the brass bands. 

A massive flood of energy was let loose by the President s 
simple gesture. The crowd that filled the Plaza and Grand 
Court cheered as wheels began to revolve and life to possess 
the leviathan Fair. Launches darted under the bridges. Gon 
dolas filled with passengers rocked on the lagoons. Doves 
wheeled through a flood of sunlight that split the banks of 
gray clouds. 

Half a million people had crowded into the grounds to see 
the Exposition officially opened on May i. They had come 

82 



World s Columbian Exposition 83 

by train and ship, by carriage, wagon and streetcar, by horse 
back and on foot. The domes and turrets of the miraculous 
city loomed pearly gray through the heavy fog that lifted at 
the crucial moment of the opening. Sailors on the roofs who 
had controlled the outbreak of flags and banners relaxed. The 
crowds began to flow through the buildings, with quick im 
pact as the wonders of the Fair were disclosed, from the 
Liberty Bell brought by special train from Philadelphia to the 
Queen of Italy s ancient laces in the Woman s Building. 

Mrs. Palmer had driven to the grounds with the Duchess of 
Veragua. She was in the twentieth carriage on a day heavy 
with officialdom. President Cleveland headed the procession in 
Cyrus H, McCormick s monogrammed carriage, driven by 
chestnut and light bay horses with gold-plated harness. 
Harlow N. Higinbotham, president of the Columbian Exposi 
tion, rode with him, his lean bearded face already a familiar 
sight to the people of Chicago. Potter Palmer s two most 
magnificent carriages came next, with the Duke of Veragua 
and his entourage. 

Gray-coated park policemen on big horses kept the crowd 
in order. Bugles blew as the troops swung into line, with capes 
thrown back to show yellow facings. Sabers were drawn for 
the salute and thousands cheered as the entourage moved along 
the Plaisance and up to the platform in front of the Admin 
istration Building. Umbrellas were folded as the sun came out 
and Mrs. Palmer, with Lyman J. Gage and Ferdinand W. 
Peck, escorted the Duchess to her place. 

After the opening ceremony a luncheon was held indoors in 
a hall decorated with palms and Easter lilies. The guests sat at 
a circular table with Mrs. Palmer facing President Cleveland 
and the Duchess at her right. Toasts were drunk to the visitors 
from Spain. They lunched on consomme, soft-shell crabs, 
julienne potatoes, cucumbers, filet mignon, French peas, 
broiled snipe, celery and potato salad, strawberries and cream, 
cheese and crackers, Roman punch and champagne. But be- 



8$ Silhouette in Diamonds 

fore cheese and coffee were served Mrs. Palmer whispered to 
the Duchess that they must move on for the formal opening of 
the Woman s Building, which was to follow the general cere 
monies. The women rose in a body, creating confusion. 
Guests thought the luncheon was ended but the President 
sat down again to enjoy his cheese and coffee as Mrs. Palmer 
led her guests in a solemn parade to the Woman s Building. 
The dairymaids and salesgirls from the Irish village in the 
Plaisance waited to give the President a blackthorn stick and 
Lady Aberdeen produced a lace handkerchief made by the 
Irish girls for Mrs. Cleveland. 

It was now Mrs. Palmer s turn to preside. The Duchess of 
Veragua was accompanied by Senora Dupuy de Loma and 
Senorita Maria del Pilar. Britain was represented by the 
Countess of Aberdeen, Mrs. Bedford-Fenwick and Mrs. 
Roberts-Austen. Princess Schahowskoy brought greetings 
from the Empress of Russia and Phra Linchee Suriya from the 
Queen of Siam. All the contributing nations had sent women 
of note to the Exposition. Their costumes and assorted lan 
guages gave life to the gathering. 

The main gallery was not large enough to hold those who 
crowded in for the dedication. The Theodore Thomas or 
chestra played a jubilate composed for the occasion by Mrs. 
H. H. Beach of Boston, since the board had decreed that all 
offerings must be the work of women. A silver laurel wreath 
was handed to Mrs. Palmer, along with a gold nail to hammer 
into the building for the "golden touch." When withdrawn 
the nail made the crossbar of a brooch given her by the 
women of Montana, with such state symbolism as the official 
seal, a mountain, a waterfall, a farmer, a prospector, a rake and 
a pick. 

"The day of fruition has arrived," said Mrs. Palmer, look 
ing around at the imposing gathering of women. She wore a 
Paris gown of heliotrope and black crepe, studded with jet 
nailheads and threaded with gold passementerie. Her hat was 



Mrs. Potter Palmer. (Portrait by Anders Leonard Zorn. Potter Palmer 
Collection, Courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago) 




Mrs. Henry Hamilton Honon 
mother of Mrs. Potter Palmer. (Por 
trait by J. C. Gorman. Courtesy o 
Major General Ulysses S. Grant III 
Frick Art Reference Library) 



Henry Hamilton Honore, father 
of Mrs. Potter Palmer. (Engraving, 
courtesy Chicago Historical Soci 
ety) 




Bertha Mathilde Honore as a young girl, 
(Courtesy Chicago Historical Society) 




Ida Honore, sister of Bertha, who 
later became Mrs. Frederick Dent 
Grant. (Courtesy Chicago Histori 
cal Society) 









<v 




,"^% 












The great fire at Chicago, October 8, 1871. (Currier & Ives, courtesy Chicago Historical 
Society) 



Panic-stricken citizens rushing past the Sherman House, carrying the aged, sick and 
helpless, and endeavoring to save family treasures. (Frank Leslie s Illustrated Weekly, 
October 28, 1871, courtesy Chicago Historical Society) 






Mrs. Potter Palmer in 1893, as chairman 
of the Board of Lady Managers of the 
World s Columbian Exposition. (Courtesy 
The Art Institute of Chicago) 





Potter Palmer in 1868, shortly be 
fore he married Bertha Honore. 
(By John Carbutt, courtesy Chi 
cago Historical Society) 



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Mrs. Palmer with Honore In Little 
Lord Fauntleroy suit. (By Steffins, 
courtesy Chicago Historical Society) 



Mrs. Frederick Dent Grant. (Por 
trait by George P. A. Healy, cour 
tesy Major General Ulysses S. 
Grant III. Frick Art Reference Li 
brary) 




Princess Cantacuzene In 1907, the year 
injwhiek she and her aunt, Mrs. Potter 
TPalmer, were being entertained at Biar 
ritz by King Edward VII. 





Mrs. Palmer shortly after her hus 
band s death in 1902. (By Steffins. 
courtesy Chicago Historical Soci 
ety) 







Tropical Garden on the Roof, Palmer House, Chicago. (Lithograph, about 1873, cour 
tesy Chicago Historical Society) 



Tally-Ho going to the Washington Park Derby in 1870. Potter Palmer sits on the box- 
seat in front. (Engraving, courtesy Chicago Historical Society) 






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if""iii i ii mi i 

"!" Jinrrli 







Woman s Building designed by Sophia G. Hayden for World s Columbian Exposition 
in 1893. (By C. D. Arnold, courtesy Chicago Historical Society) 



View from the balcony of the Woman s Building. (Painting by Francis Coates Jones, 
courtesy Chicago Historical Society) 




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Main gallery of Potter Palmer mansion. (Courtesy Chicago Historical Society) 

Library, showing carved oak decorations and Tiffany chandeliers. (Courtesy William 
B. Cofvin) 












Mrs. Potter Palmer, wearing her fa 
mous pink pearl as a pendant. (Cour 
tesy Chicago Historical Society) 




Potter Palmer. (By Steffins, cour 
tesy Chicago Historical Society) 




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en 



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World s Columbian Exposition $$ 

of heliotrope velvet with black ostrich tips and jet trimming, 
and her white broadcloth wrap was lined with white satin. 
She was now forty-four and her hair had turned prematurely 
gray. It was beautifully coiffed, and the effect with her dark 
eyes and clear skin was striking. Women from the ends of the 
earth gazed at her with frank admiration as she addressed them 
in a quiet, persuasive manner. 

Her speech was largely a protest against the forced depend 
ence and helplessness of women. She ranged the field, touch 
ing on social abuses, poor pay, inadequate education. It was 
neither "unfeminine nor monstrous" to compete with men in 
lucrative industries, said Mrs. Palmer. She deplored overdone 
chivalry and the tendency to put women on a pedestal. "Free 
dom and justice for all are infinitely more to be desired than 
pedestals for a few/ she observed. The Exposition should 
benefit their sex as a whole through the interchange of thought 
and sympathy among the influential women of all countries, 
"now for the first time working together with a common pur 
pose and an established means of communication." 

She emphasized the delicacy, symmetry and strength of 
their building, complimenting the women who had given it 
its grace, and those around the world who had provided its 
exhibits. "Looms have wrought their most delicate fabrics; the 
needle has flashed in the hands of maidens under tropical suns, 
the lacemaker has bent over her cushion weaving her most art 
ful web, the brush and chisel have sought to give form and 
reality to the visions haunting the brain of the artist all have 
wrought with the thought of making our building worthy to 
serve its great end," said Mrs. Palmer. "We now dedicate the 
Woman s Building to an elevated womanhood knowing that 
by so doing we shall best serve the cause of humanity." 

But her colleagues were not yet uplifted enough to refrain 
from petty bickering among themselves. Bertha had to point 
out the folly of their getting excited over the fact that she had 
kept the Duchess of Veragua so much to herself, and had not 



86 Silhouette in Diamonds 

introduced them individually to this noted guest. Some 
thought it pretentious of her to ride in the carriage with 
Spanish nobility. To make matters worse, in spite of all Mrs. 
Palmer s tact and good will a second visitor from Spain gave 
her the most deadly and talked-about snub of her entire career. 
None could fathom the behavior of the Infanta Eulalia of 
Spain to the Queen of Chicago. It was the social feud of the 
decade in the United States and its repercussions were heard 
in Europe. 

The Infanta arrived in Chicago in June to represent the 
Queen Regent of Spain and to give prestige to the Spanish 
section of the Exposition. No efforts were spared to do her 
honor and there was much talk of the pomp the occasion de 
manded. The officials had been warned that their visitor would 
expect the utmost deference. Mayor Carter Harrison was 
advised to replace his slouch hat with a silk topper when he 
met her at the station. President Higinbotham turned up in 
full dress for the breakfast given in her honor by the Mayor. 

Mrs. Palmer, of course, was admirably prepared to cope 
with every eventuality. She had already sent her personal table 
silver and her gold plate to the Palmer House for the Infanta s 
use while she stayed there. She had superintended the prepara 
tion of the royal suite. The visitor had an Egyptian parlor and 
a massive bed inlaid with mother-of-pearl, since the craze for 
Near East and Oriental decor was at its height. A private staff 
of waiters, chambermaids and bellboys was assigned to her. 
All was in order and good taste. Mrs. Palmer had invited the 
cream of Chicago society and all the Exposition officials and 
commissioners from abroad to a reception at her home in 
honor of the visitor from Spain. 

But the Infanta was a problem from the start. She walked 
into the Spanish Building over a carpet strewn with pansies, 
showing a minimum of interest in anything around her. She 
declared the building officially open and attended receptions 
and dinners, as well as Mayor Harrison s jolly breakfast, spiked 



World s Columbian Exposition 8j 

with champagne and Roman punch. An individualist till the 
day she died, the Infanta lit up a cigarette, to the horror of 
those around her. And somewhere along the way she learned 
that Mrs. Potter Palmer was the wife of the owner of the 
Palmer House. 

"An innkeeper s wife!" she exclaimed scornfully. Of course, 
she could not go to a reception at her home. But the Spanish 
Ambassador talked to her in private and explained that one 
did not flout Mrs. Potter Palmer in Chicago. 

The Infanta, who preferred that her name be pronounced 
"Ay-oo-lay-lya," with all its Spanish inflections, was not im 
pressed. She finally went to Palmer Castle on the evening 
of June 9 but arrived in a fury. Moreover, she was an hour 
late because she had again jibbed at going when she found that 
no one had provided a scarlet carpet or canopy for her at the 
hotel entrance. She went back upstairs and had to be coaxed 
to set forth again, stepping out into a storm with only a large 
black umbrella to protect her white satin gown and slippers 
from the rain. Barbarous Chicago! The Infanta was tired, 
cross and hostile when she walked into Mrs. Palmer s mag 
nificent home, where a dais had been set up in the ballroom 
for her use. 

Her hostess suavely began a round of presentations but 
Eulalia neither smiled nor bowed. She glared at each friendly 
face that swam into view and made no acknowledgment of 
the introductions. Neither the gorgeous Mrs. Palmer nor the 
international gathering she had assembled made any impression 
on the sulky Princess. The arts were represented as well as the 
state and the Army. Among those whom she visibly cold- 
shouldered were Adlai E. Stevenson, Vice President of the 
United States; General Nelson A. Miles, Robert Todd Lin 
coln, Theodore Stanton, Marshall Field, George M. Pullman, 
Philip D. Armour, Paran Stevens, Sir Henry Wood, Leslie 
Carter, F. Hopkinson Smith, Julia Ward Howe, Maud Elliott 
Howe, Anders L. Zorn, the Governors of New York State 



88 Silhouette in Diamonds 

and Kentucky, an assortment of Russian princes and dis 
tinguished representatives of countries from France to Siam. 
Outside, the rain came down in slanting sheets and the Dally 
Inter-Ocean reported on June 10, 1893: 

Early in the evening a great crowd gathered outside on the 
drive to see the gay company arrive. They blocked the way until 
the rainstorm came, and even then those who had umbrellas stood 
the splashing raindrops in hopes of seeing the infanta when she 
arrived. From 8 o clock until after 10 they saw the carriages roll 
up; they saw the dazzling flashing of the lightning bring into 
prominence the castellated turrets. . . . Horse drivers shouted to 
their prancing horses; waterproofed footmen dashed here and 
there, doors clanged, and orders were buffeted back and forth. A 
cordon of policemen drawn around the lawn kept away intruders, 
and the gleam of calcium lights thrown up on the building 
brought the sharp corners of its architectural beauties into greater 
prominence. 

In less than an hour after her arrival the Infanta cornered 
her hostess and everyone noticed signs of a storm. Her manner 
was one of protest and Mrs. Palmer looked pale but de 
termined. Finally the Infanta whisked up her white satin train 
and flounced out into the rain, ignoring everyone in sight. The 
guests settled down to the delectable supper that had been pre 
pared in honor of Eulalia. They drank champagne, talked, 
laughed and tried to cover up the fact that they had been 
witnesses to an incredible gaucherie involving Mrs. Potter 
Palmer. However, she met the situation with Spartan detach 
ment and gave no visible sign of embarrassment but tactfully 
held the gathering in tow. She had nothing whatever to say 
about Eulalia. But the story quickly spread that there had been 
a sharp exchange between the two women. It was clear to 
everyone present that Eulalia had been openly rude to Mrs. 
Palmer and had virtually turned her back on the nation s most 
knowing hostess and her eminent guests. 

The storm soon broke in the papers, although on the morn- 



World s Columbian Exposition 8$ 

ing after the reception Eulalia and Mrs. Potter Palmer shared 
the front pages with the collapse of Ford s Theater in Wash 
ington and the death of twenty-two persons in the ruins, as 
well as a violent strike in the quarries of Lemont near Chicago, 
with many dead and injured. But the Infanta s behavior soon 
was discussed from coast to coast and in European circles, 
where Eulalia s eccentricities were a familiar tale. There were 
jests at Mrs. Palmer s expense and the cartoonists lampooned 
the encounter. The story took on exaggerated twists. It was 
gleefully related that the two women had occupied separate 
thrones in the ballroom, but that there had not been enough 
room under one roof for two such regal personages. It was 
more than rumor that the guests had been asked to bow and 
curtsy twice once to the Infanta and once to their hostess. 
When some forgot their ballroom manners word went down 
the line that they must observe this rule. It was obviously 
maladroit to have the Infanta scowling and Mrs. Palmer beam 
ing at the courteous guests, who were doing their best to 
bend their unpracticed knees. 

By this time Eulalia, slightly exhilarated in mood, was show 
ing quite openly how much the situation bored her. She had 
not expected to have to meet so many people and she had no 
more idea what Adlai Stevenson stood for than Marshall Field, 
or what made Julia Ward Howe so distinctive a figure. All 
these vulgar presentations were not what she had come for, 
and she did not welcome such bonhomie, either at Mrs. 
Palmer s or at the Fair. When she was invited to have 
luncheon in the Administration Building after a tour of the 
German village she refused to budge from where she was and 
said she would much prefer not to meet the committee. The 
members promptly turned their backs on her and disappeared 
into the New York State Building, to drown their chagrin in 
champagne. 

Hobart Chatfield-Taylor, the Ambassador to Spain and a 
good friend of Mrs. Palmer s, was feeling somewhat desperate 



$0 Silhouette in Diamonds 

by this time. He marched the Infanta incognito through the 
Midway and this she greatly enjoyed. But before she left 
Chicago the coolness of those around her, the newspaper 
stories, the applause for Mrs. Palmer s dignified behavior and, 
perhaps most of all, the counsel of her anguished advisers made 
the Infanta behave herself. She was charm itself at the farewell 
dinner she gave for those who had entertained her. In the in 
terests of harmony Mrs. Palmer attended, although she had 
pointedly canceled her box seats for the concert given in 
Festival Hall in Eulalia s honor the day after the disastrous 
reception. 

Potter Palmer, too, showed his good manners. Much as he 
must have deplored the Infanta s treatment of his Cissie, his 
best coach-and-f our took her to the depot and flowers strewed 
her path from the hotel to her carriage on the day of her de 
parture. Clad in a light cloth costume and sailor hat, her dark 
eyes bright with mischief, she stepped jauntily into her coach 
and waved to the crowd that jammed the streets. More spec 
tators had turned out for her departure than for her arrival. 
They had come to stare, not merely at the Infanta Eulalia, but 
at the woman who had dared to snub Mrs. Potter Palmer. The 
Saragossa Band played the Spanish anthem. Cavalry escorted 
the entourage to the depot. The Infanta confided to the genial 
Mayor Harrison as they drove along: "I wish that I could see 
Chicago thirty years from now. It is a great and beautiful city 
now, but in thirty years more it will be the grandest place on 
earth." 

She had scattered four hundred dollars in ten-dollar gold 
pieces among the staff of the Palmer House. She had also left 
an unforgettable picture of herself in Chicago. Few memories 
of Mrs. Palmer took root in the public mind as did her en 
counter with the Infanta Eulalia. But the city applauded its 
leading lady and felt that she had shown the better spirit. The 
two antagonists met later in Europe and became good friends. 
By that time Eulalia had decided that Mrs. Potter Palmer was 



World s Columbian Exposition 91 

of some account since she had been received into King Ed 
ward VII s circle in London. And Bertha, always magnani 
mous in her outlook, bore her no malice. She had no objection 
to being called the innkeeper s wife. She was quite fond of the 
innkeeper. 

Every day while the Fair lasted he called for her with his 
coach-and-four at five o clock and drove her home after her 
day s work. The Woman s Building was the most discussed 
spot at the Fair because of its lively doings, its interest for 
women, and the presence of Mrs. Potter Palmer in a roomy 
office hung with nets made by New Jersey fisherwomen. She 
prided herself on the fact that it was not only the most cosmo 
politan building at the Fair; it was also the most democratic, 
with linens embroidered by the insane women in a Pennsyl 
vania almshouse as well displayed as the Queen of Belgium s 
point d Angleterre gown, a triumph of the lacemaker s art. 

Most absorbing of all to Mrs. Palmer were the crowds them 
selves. They came slowly at first, but by October it was plain 
that a fair portion of the American population had viewed the 
Fair. The tabulations had passed 27,000,000. They flocked in 
from all parts of the country as the summer wore onwomen 
spruce in straw bonnets, basque bodices and leg-of-mutton 
sleeves, men in bowlers with curled brims, and children sprint 
ing about the grounds in sailor hats and wide-collared suits. 
The young and the old, the rich and the poor, the sophisti 
cated and the rustic enjoyed the Fair, which established itself 
in the memory as one of the wonders of the century. It ful 
filled a great many dreams, and put together an album of 
period interest for everyone who visited it. 

The Woman s Building blended usefulness with romance. 
The farm women rushed to see the model kitchen with its gas 
range and tiled floor. The variety of handicrafts exhibited was 
bewildering. Women were shown as the original homemakers 
and tillers of the soil, as millers, weavers and tanners, as seam 
stresses, tailors, potters and artists. Mrs. Palmer presided over 



#2 Silhouette in Diamonds 

a number of receptions and gave her own distinctive touch to 
each. Chicago gossiped when a prelate of the Roman Catholic 
Church took precedence over a long waiting line and was re 
ceived at once by Mrs. Palmer at a reception given in the 
auditorium for die Congressional Committee of the Fair. 
"This was the first time that social Chicago had evidence of 
the fact that a Prince of the Church ranks everyone except 
a sovereign," Mrs. Addie Hibbard Gregory noted. Mrs. Potter 
Palmer had made it so at the Fair. 

All kinds of strange duties fell to her lot during the months 
she spent on her novel enterprise. The East had made fun of 
Chicago for daring to outbid it for the Exposition, comment 
ing on "provincial manners and customs." But it was a woman 
from the East, accompanying the Congressional Committee, 
who nursed her baby in Mrs. Palmer s library, and not a 
Chicago woman. This made very good sense to the hostess, 
who was also happy to be godmother to an Eskimo baby born 
on the Fair grounds. The Horticultural Department developed 
a perfect white petunia and named it the Mrs. Potter Palmer. 
Foreign girls appealed to her for work, for food and lodging. 
They had heard of her from as far away as Constantinople. 
She set up a dormitory on a lot given by Pullman and more 
than twelve thousand women found shelter there and were 
conveyed back and forth by wagonette. Others were taken 
into her home. 

Mrs. Palmer was ubiquitous and in supreme command. She 
had to cope with sixty women s organizations and the suf 
fragists were always at hand to fight for their rights, from 
floor space to freedom of speech. Susan B. Anthony gave sage 
counsel to her fellow women, watched a baseball game with 
Mrs. Potter Palmer and sat with her while Buffalo Bill rode 
up on his horse and waved his hat to both with a flourish. 
The temperance reformers were busy, getting millions of 
pledges, many of them from children. When an exhibit was 
not faring well it was Bertha s custom to drop around and 



World s Columbian Exposition $3 

make substantial purchases. She took home handfuls of Mon 
tana rubies, Texas opals, Colorado rhinestones and Idaho cat s- 
eyes at different times. She listened to many tales of woe and 
sent a carriage every day to take elderly or ailing visitors to 
and from Jackson Park. Or she paid for their folding wicker 
chairs at the Fair. After a few wearings she gave away her 
gowns to saleswomen, waitresses and seamstresses on the 
grounds. She gave luncheons of beefsteak, strawberries and 
cream in the roof garden to the errand girls and guides who 
flitted around the Fair. 

Mrs. Charles Henrotin, a Chicago banker s wife who was 
already one of her close friends, was vice president of the 
board and a dynamic assistant It was part of her function to 
smooth down the ruffled feathers of the women assembled in 
their own square in the rotunda, conducting their organiza 
tional affairs from behind a screen of robin s-egg blue silk cur 
tains. 

There were outbursts of temper on bad days. Mrs. Henrotin 
sank into a chair in Mrs. Palmer s office in some despair after a 
screaming match staged by the Countess di Brazza during a 
rehearsal for some tableaux. "She is extremely exacting and 
demands an amount of consideration which it seems to me her 
official position does not warrant," Mrs. Henrotin reported. 
"Moreover, she isn t even Italian. She s American." 

All through July and August the board was in an uproar 
internally, with Mrs. Logan the chief irritant this rime. She 
had turned her guns on Mrs. Palmer, who was ready to resign 
by the end of August. Mrs. Lockwood insisted that Mrs. Logan 
had done the board more damage than Phoebe Couzins at her 
worst. Moreover, she had never been near the Woman s Build 
ing since the exhibits were installed. Mrs. Logan replied that 
she stayed away deliberately, since she believed her presence 
made the troublemakers act as they did. "The cause of women 
has been set back a generation since the opening of the World s 
Fair by the action of unworthy members of our Board," Mrs. 



5^ Silhouette in Diamonds 

Logan wrote to Mrs. Palmer, adding that some of the mem 
bers had flattered their chairman unduly and had been willing 
to do anything to keep themselves in Chicago at the expense 
of the board. 

Mrs. Logan at this time was an aging fighter who had 
camped with her husband during the Civil War, was a close 
friend of Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant and spoke up sharply on all 
manner of public issues. She was never afraid of an argument 
but she met her match in Mrs. Palmer, who thought it vulgar 
to fight and chose to use soft tones in reply. The men were 
behind the chairman of the board. "It is very hard to feel that 
when you have done your best, you should be attacked by 
your friends, or at least, made the victim of their wrath on 
others," Henry H. Smith, of the Treasury Department, wrote 
to her sympathetically. He assured her that her board was in 
much better shape financially than the commission and he 
urged her "to show her teeth" and convince the malcontents 
that she was in dead earnest in order to bring them to their 
senses. 

The wrangling became so public that Eugene Field sent 
Mrs. Palmer a newspaper clipping about the lady managers 
who "splurged around splendiferously and seemed to itch for 
notoriety," on which he had scrawled in blue pencil: "For 
God s sake give us a rest. Yours muchly Eugene Field." 

But Mrs. Palmer calmly rode out the storm and made it 
seem inconsequential in the long run against all that had been 
accomplished by the board of lady managers. Meanwhile, she 
continued to entertain most opulently at her home. Every 
visiting celebrity that summer and all the women who came to 
the Fair in an official capacity were entertained at the Palmer 
mansion. There were yachting parties leaving late at night from 
the Naval Pier while the lights still blazed and visitors reveled 
in the carnival spirit. The festive air was never allowed to 
languish in spite of all the solid work done in the daytime. The 
scene at night was entrancing. The splash of fountains, the 



World s Columbia?! Exposition $5 

rhythm of bands, the twinkling lights, impressed themselves 
forever on the consciousness of all who saw them. 

More fleshly entertainment was to be found along the Mid 
way, with its foreign villages, cafes and bazaars; its Turkish 
mosque and Algerian cafe; its Persian harem and Irish market 
town; its German village; its Chamber of Horrors and Pom- 
peian house; its captive balloon sent over from Paris, and its 
panoramas. It was the j oiliest, rowdiest part of the Fair, draw 
ing the roughest element as well as children and respectable 
citizens looking for amusement. Visitors could sip beer to the 
accompaniment of Strauss waltzes in the garden of Old 
Vienna, ride camels in the Streets of Cairo or spin deliciously 
in the ferris wheel with the night lights spraying them with 
star-dust. There were fakirs, freaks and sideshows. Tom 
toms beat out jungle rhythms, and lions were prodded to 
roaring fury. But the chief annoyance to Mrs. Palmer was 
Little Egypt, where the Dmse du Ventre was done by 
hootchy-kootchy girls to the music of a Zulu band. 

The Midway was close to the Woman s Building and there 
were constant complaints about the noise and rowdyism so 
near at hand. The women s organizations were shocked by 
the Danse du Ventre and Anthony Comstock made it an issue. 
The newspapers soon got wind of the devilment in progress. 
Broad-minded and worldly though she was, Mrs. Palmer 
sternly pushed the matter and the board ordered the dance 
suppressed. Ida C. Craddock, a well-known feminist and 
shorthand expert, promptly protested, arguing that the ban 
was a blow to social purity and the diffusion of scientific 
truth. "It is our American men and women, and not the 
Oriental women, who are responsible for the atmosphere of 
indecent suggestion surrounding the very mention of the 
Danse du Ventre," Miss Craddock wrote to Mrs. Palmer. "It 
is a religious memorial of a worship that has existed thousands 
of years all over the world." 

She enclosed an analysis of the dance, which is now in the 



96 Silhouette in Diamonds 

official Exposition papers that the Palmer family turned over to 
the Chicago Historical Society. "In the interest of social purity, 
dear Mrs. Palmer/ wrote Miss Craddock, "may I not hope 
that you and your associates on the Board will reconsider your 
attitudes toward the Danse du Ventre from the standpoint of 
my interpretation?" But the Comstock judgment prevailed. 

The board of lady managers commissioned Anders L. Zorn, 
who was serving as Swedish commissioner at the Exposition, 
to paint their chairman while the Fair was still in progress. 
But before he could get under way he was thrown from his 
horse while cantering in Lincoln Park and his collarbone was 
broken. At the time he was busy with a portrait of Mrs. 
Charles Deering. However, he continued to work with his 
left hand. Mrs. Deering wrote to Mrs. Palmer that Zorn was 
philosophical about his accident and "places himself and his 
left hand at your disposal to begin your portrait when you 
will!" 

Soon Zorn was at work on his famous painting of Mrs. Pot 
ter Palmer, doing it with his left hand. Her pose was symbolic. 
He gave the ivory gavel with which she presided at her board 
meetings the air of a scepter, a regal effect heightened by the 
jeweled diadem she wore. The entire conception suggested a 
sparkling fairy queen and Potter Palmer always preferred the 
Healy portrait, although the Zorn painting was considered 
sensationally effective when it was first viewed by her ad 
mirers. Zorn was paid three thousand dollars for his work and 
one of the receptions at the Woman s Building was given in 
his honor. He dined often at the Palmer home, both then and 
on his return to the United States in 1 896. By that time he had 
many commissions for his fashionable portraits. 

Late in July Ida, Fred and their children arrived in Chicago, 
back from Vienna. Julia was now seventeen, a tall and beauti 
ful girl fresh from having made her debut at the Austrian 
court. She had much to tell her Aunt Bertha of the way the 



World s Columbian Exposition $j 

Archduchess Maria Theresa had looked in her white satin 
gown, with splendid diamonds around her neck and a diadem 
on her heavy curls; of Lady Paget s regal air and her own 
mother with her soft dark beauty dancing in the immense ball 
room of the Hapsburgs to Strauss waltzes conducted by the 
composer himself. Bertha was interested in every detail of 
Julia s debut, from her Drecoll gown to the way in which Ida 
had diverted her partners to her young daughter. 

Julia had attended twenty-three balls in a few weeks time 
before her departure, and she was swept at once into Chicago s 
social structure by her Aunt Bertha. The debutante found her 
aunt "radiant, with fresh skin and brilliant eyes, in the prime 
of her great beauty." Julia thought that she carried off her role 
easily, gracefully, without any sign of flurry or fatigue. 
Seeing her in this new light her niece found her "calm, 
amiable, quick and capable." 

Honore and Potter took their cousin to the Fair. All the 
Honores came and went at the Woman s Building, and Mrs. 
Palmer s father was specially honored by Burnham at a ban 
quet held soon after the opening. "Too much cannot be said 
of what he has contributed to Chicago s growth. Wherever 
his hand appeared there has been big broad development. . . . 
Chicago owes him a monument," said Burnhain, to Mrs. 
Palmer s delight. 

She took a proprietorial pride in the vistas of balustrades and 
colonnades, of lagoons reflecting towers and whipping flags, 
of heroic sculpture and ornate decoration superimposed on 
Beaux-Arts classicism. The gilded dome of the Administration 
Building, in French Renaissance style, dominated the Fair 
grounds. Mrs. Palmer was responsible for Saint-Gaudens 
Diana, of Madison Square Garden fame, being a graceful asset 
to the Agriculture Building, There had been some hesitancy 
about installing the winged goddess, on the ground of 
modesty, until she had said firmly: "What nonsense! We will 



$8 Silhouette in Diamonds 

have it on the Woman s Building. Its critics promptly re 
lented, and it became one of the more distinctive landmarks of 
the Fair. 

The scientific advances of the era were brilliantly illustrated 
in the exhibits and Mrs. Palmer drew the attention of dis 
tinguished visitors to the cash registers and adding machines, 
the sewing machines and typewriters. Edison s kinetoscope 
presaging motion pictures was on display, along with huge 
Krupp guns, the Yerkes telescope, the Pullman exhibit of giant 
locomotives, Edison s colored "Tower of Light" and Colum 
bus contract with Ferdinand and Isabella. She had a sharp eye 
for the natural wonders and novelties at the Fair, from the 
largest canary diamond in the United States to Venus de Milo 
molded in chocolate and fifty thousand roses abloom on the 
Wooded Island. 

But the final touch at the Fair was one of disaster. Mrs. 
Palmer s old friend, Carter Harrison, a Kentuckian who had 
followed her father to Ashland Avenue in the early days of 
their settlement in Chicago, was shot at his own front door by 
Patrick Prendergast, a fanatic nursing a grudge because the 
Mayor had not appointed him corporation counsel. Harrison 
had just returned from giving his final speech at the Fair. 

For two days and two nights people filed past the bier of the 
lusty character who had served as their Mayor. Flags flew at 
half-mast all through the city. He had fought the Sunday 
closing of the Fair and had genial ways that the people loved. 
Many years earlier he had battled Joseph Medill, a teetotaler, 
on the Sunday closing of beer gardens and saloons. He be 
lieved in personal liberty and often said: "You can t legislate 
morality, so leave it alone." He rode through the city by day 
and by night on a huge bay mare, wearing a wide-brimmed 
black hat on his bearded head and knee boots of the softest 
leather. Everywhere he went he made friends in a hearty, 
gregarious fashion but the town was wide-open and roistering 
during his regime. He was traveled and worldly, a gallant with 



World s Columbian Exposition $p 

the Continental view of the moralities. Mrs. Palmer, with a 
strong strain of rectitude in her make-up, had many argu 
ments with him on social issues, but they remained good 
friends. He was a showman first and last, and could always be 
counted on to add the picturesque touch to any gathering. He 
had vigorous views on labor and believed that the worker had 
a right to strike. 

His death threw a cloud over the closing of the Fair, and 
Mrs. Palmer was grave-faced and saddened as she carried 
through the final ceremony at the Woman s Building on 
October 31, 1893, three days after the murder of Carter 
Harrison. She wished things to end on a note of harmony and 
so in pronouncing her own benediction she deplored the "dis 
torted stories of friction" that had appeared in the papers. "I, 
personally, have never had a harsh or unkind word from a 
member of the board, and have never uttered one," she ob 
served in her most dulcet tones. "When our palace in the 
White City shall have vanished like a dream, when grass and 
flowers cover the beautiful spot where it now stands, its 
memory and influence will still remain with those who have 
been brought together within its walls." 



> Tk Nations Hostess 



At the time of the Columbian Exposition 
Mrs. Potter Palmer described herself as the "nation s hostess 
and the nation s head woman servant." Beyond doubt it had 
made her an international figure by bringing her into touch 
with reigning sovereigns, statesmen and people of all classes at 
home and abroad. 

Chicago was proud of its Exposition. Before the Fair closed 
it was also proud of Mrs. Palmer, its jeweled queen who had 
widened her realm and drawn attention to the American 
woman. The spotlight had played on her feuds as well as her 
triumphs, but she had emerged in large dimensions, the per 
sonality of the Fair. Her poise, her power to command, her 
deliberation, had served her well in reconciling clashing inter 
ests, in spite of some wounded feelings along the way and the 
general impression that she had lorded it over lesser mortals. 

The ties she made at this time channeled to some extent her 
future course through life, and gave her a friendly audience in 
various European countries. Abroad, she had become the 
legendary hostess of the United States. Her jewels, her good 
looks, her style, her tact as a hostess, her castle on Lake Shore 

100 



The Nation s Hostess 101 

Drive, her capacity for getting things done were discussed far 
afield, so that she seemed an effective public courier for her 
city and her times. Her parties set the pace for entertaining in 
the Golden Nineties aside from New York and gave Chicago 
an unfamiliar touch of glamour. The Middle Western city had 
been negligible on the social front until Mrs. Potter Palmer 
gave it a sophisticated flourish. With native pride and inde 
pendence of spirit its people liked to see their values upheld, 
their millionaires in gold rather than in tinsel frames. They 
were among the most philanthropic and generous in the 
world. By this time they were giving lavish sums to edu 
cation and public works. They were building up impressive 
art collections. 

"It is a great mistake to think that we in New York possess 
all the elegant, rich, and ornamental outgrowth of taste, or 
that we know better than the West what are the luxuries and 
comforts of the age," Julian Ralph reported after a tour across 
the country in 1893 for Harper s Magazine. He felt that 
Chicago made Broadway look "desolate and solitudinous." 
The cable cars of the Western city outpaced the horsecars of 
New York. Chicago was more rapid and businesslike in all 
respects. He found its capitalists and storekeepers well-in 
formed men "whose business field is the world." He liked the 
boulevards and avenues, the noble parks and flowers, the miles 
of detached villas, the mosaic, marble and onyx in private 
homes. 

However, there still was much feeling in Chicago s polyglot 
population for the natural, simple and spontaneous effect, and 
a tendency to scoff at the pretentious. But Mrs. Palmer, 
through her philanthropy and hard-headed civic work, suc 
cessfully bridged the gap between mere social display and her 
own form of pragmatism. She could show both facets in high 
relief as she moved from a hard day s work on behalf of fac 
tory girls to a dazzling party in her home. One great asset was 
the physical vitality that enabled her to function with drive 



102 Silhouette in Diamonds 

and precision. Her life was highly organized, with every hour 
allotted to a task. It was her custom to rise early, live vigor 
ously and eat abstemiously. Her guests might be treated to 
Lucullan banquets at her home but the Palmer family lived on 
simple fare and she watched the household bills. She had a 
master buyer at her side. Young Honore often complained 
about this Spartan regime. "What! French lamb chops and 
peas again for lunch," he would protest when he came home 
for the holidays from St. Mark s School or Harvard. 

Since wealth and civic responsibility had not yet become a 
popular twin conception in the United States, Mrs. Palmer 
seemed to many to be poised between the devil and the deep 
sea. Representing the last word in luxurious living she earnestly 
championed labor as industrial unrest crowded the set in 
which she moved. She was not unsympathetic to the socialistic 
philosophy and at rimes made speeches and expressed views 
that had her more conservative friends aghast. The Fair had 
changed her viewpoint on many issues. It had made her most 
emphatically the champion of working women everywhere. 
Her dealings with foreign women had opened her eyes to the 
worldwide picture of their status. 

But she found it difficult to free herself from the fatuous 
legend of an empty social life. The Woman Beautiful com 
mented that "people are concerned not so much about what 
she thinks as they are about her aloof manner, her stunning 
carriage, the smooth pink and white unwrinkled skin, the per 
fect teeth, wonderful hair, velvet gowns, her world famous 
furs and the sumptuous way in which she conducts her 
menage." 

This sort of comment left Mrs. Palmer cold. It gave only 
one impression of her many-sided life. She preferred to have 
people concerned about what she thought at a time when 
she was aligning herself with the social reformers and tem 
perance workers in Chicago. It was beside the point that the 
Palmer House bar, one of the most splendid of its kind, 



The Nation s Hostess 203 

was crowded nearly all night long. When W. T. Stead, the 
British editor and reformer, visited Chicago at the close of the 
Fair and set out to clean up the city in a whirlwind campaign, 
his most imposing ally was Mrs. Potter Palmer. She found the 
rabid Englishman one of the most provocative guests who had 
ever sat at her board as he talked of the sin and corruption he 
found in Chicago. He seemed a merry wag as well as a zealot 
at the dinner table. 

Stead turned loose all his powerful batteries on the Prairie 
City. But he did not dismay Mrs. Palmer when he shouted 
from the rostrum that the "idle and worthless rich were in 
finitely more disreputable than the lowest prostitutes." This 
was immediately interpreted as an attack on Chicago s social 
set and was telegraphed around the world. After that the ap 
pearance of Stead and Mrs. Potter Palmer on the same plat 
form was of unique interest to the city. The Englishman held 
meetings at the Central Music Hall, with audiences that in 
cluded preachers and saloonkeepers, gamblers, theological 
professors, madams and anarchists. Late at night, wet and hun 
gry from his tours of the levee, he drank hot chocolate before 
an open fire in Hull House and talked to Jane Addams about 
her work. "It would be difficult to imagine a greater contrast 
between the worthless society woman who devotes her days 
to pleasure and her nights to more or less pleasurable dissipa 
tion, and the patient, laborious, Christlike work of Miss Jane 
Addams and her coadjutors in Hull House," Stead commented. 

But he wholly approved of Mrs. Potter Palmer, in spite of 
the fact that she decked herself with jewels, and was a shining 
member of the class he attacked. He was not immune to the 
glitter of diamonds or to the benefits of financial support. For 
some time he had been importuning the Countess of Warwick 
to bring influence to bear on the Prince of Wales in matters 
of social reform. But the Prince merely yawned at the idea 
when she discussed such matters, the Countess reported. 

Stead urged Mrs. Palmer to head a reform movement in 



104 Silhouette in Diamonds 

Chicago and be the Lady Nestor of the United States with the 
Countess of Warwick filling the same role in Britain. He 
would edit papers for them on both sides of the Atlantic. He 
wrote to her on January 30, 1894, outlining his plan and add 
ing a touch of flattery: "In London we have the whole hier 
archy, royal and aristocratic, which would in any case tower 
above the Countess of Warwick or anybody else. Here in Chi 
cago there is no one who would tower above you if you were 
to play the part of Lady Nestor; you would not only be Lady 
Nestor but also queen." 

In this same letter Stead gave his view of the Countess of 
Warwick s relationship with the Prince of Wales. "There is 
nothing wrong in their friendship although most people be 
lieve there is," he wrote. "He is devoted to her, and she is the 
best friend he has in the world, that is all." 

Although Mrs. Palmer did not become Lady Nestor in the 
journalistic sense, she served as the energetic vice president of 
the Civic Federation which was established by the public- 
spirited men of Chicago in answer to the challenge Stead had 
flung at them. On his return to England he published If Christ 
Came to Chicago!, a lengthy philippic on sin that promptly 
became a best seller but that mothers hid from their children. 
Meanwhile, the Civic Federation took hold with a central 
council of a hundred, and branches in all the city wards. It 
had six departments philanthropic, industrial, municipal, edu 
cational, moral and political and it functioned fearlessly, par 
ticularly on the municipal front, where the appointment of 
corrupt men to city offices was opposed. It helped to push 
through Chicago s first civil service law. It campaigned for 
clean streets and went after grafting garbage collectors. It 
whipped up raids on gambling saloons and organized relief 
operations during the dark days that followed the Fair. 

The Federation had its quota of public-spirited men of 
wealth. Much of the labor discontent was focused on the great 
fortunes built up by such men as Marshall Field, Potter 



The Nation s Hostess 10 j 

Palmer, William B. Ogden, George M. Pullman, Joseph Medill, 
Philip D. Armour, John D. Caton, John Wentworth and 
Charles T. Yerkes. Some of these men may have felt the bite 
of conscience as they watched the bitter misery around them 
the strikes, the unrest, the yearnings of the working man for 
better things. The Palmers had been energetic in good works 
from the earliest days of their success. Marshall Field came to 
life as a philanthropist with the establishment of the Civic 
Federation. Pullman had gone in for feudal paternalism that 
was now coldly rejected by his employees. 

Mrs. Palmer gave more than nominal service to the newly 
created body. She was first vice president and chummed amia 
bly with J. J. McGrath, the union labor official who was sec 
ond vice president. Her work brought her into close touch 
with Hull House and soon she was a familiar sight at the set 
tlement, swathed in furs and feathers, attending meetings or 
organizing crusades. Jane Addams stirred up a good many 
women of wealth to civic action, although she always main 
tained that she would neither be subsidized by millionaires nor 
bullied by working men. This quiet Quakeress whose father 
was a friend of Lincoln, and whose own desire to help the 
poor sprang from her explorations of the London slums, even 
tually kept four buildings in operation, with clubs, classes, 
folk dances, native arts and a visiting nurse service. Fifty thou 
sand immigrants a year were reaching Chicago, many of them 
unable to speak a word of English. 

In spite of her interest in Stead Mrs. Palmer was not dis 
posed to be enthusiastic about visionary schemes for social bet 
terment. Her thoroughgoing nature demanded a practical ap 
proach to every problem that arose. She did not scorn the 
thundering evangelism of the era, however, believing that the 
passive public could stand a hard jolt. One fire-and-brimstone 
preacher shouted that if Chicago had a church for every two 
thousand inhabitants it also had a saloon for every two hun 
dred. At this time Dwight L. Moody was addressing multi- 



106 Silhouette in Diamonds 

tudes In the North Side Tabernacle, moving many to tears and 
to conversion. His hymnbooks were in nearly every home. His 
greeting to the man in the street was: "Are you a Christian? " 
This was heady evangelism but Mrs. Palmer favored action 
and had a keen eye for public response. In spite of her aloof 
way of living she had an earthy understanding of man s needs 
and aspirations, and was always ready to welcome an enthu 
siast in her home if his cause seemed just. Her views on social 
questions were applauded by John P. Altgeld, the radical 
Governor of Illinois who refused to wear legal robes and had 
strong socialistic leanings. He fought the trusts, advocated the 
eight-hour day for the worker and pardoned three of the 
anarchist leaders of the Haymarket riot who had been sent to 
prison for life. 

The rich men of Chicago did not love Governor Altgeld, 
but he felt he had a friend in Mrs. Potter Palmer. He was 
struck by a speech she made that illustrated her independence 
of spirit. He wrote to her praising its "clearness-its literary 
excellence-its wonderful force-its deep insight, and great 
courage in questioning doctrines which had been considered 
sacred, and that in high places." 

He had admired her work at the Fair. When it was over he 
wrote to her from Springfield that the cause of women s inde 
pendence had been advanced a century through the Colum 
bian Exposition, and posterity would label the "delicate hand 
that directed this work the hand of genius. " He had tried to 
see her when the Fair ended but "they guarded you jealously 
and spared you the affliction," the Governor wrote. He wished 
to call on her "not in relation to any particular business but as 
an expression of my admiration." 

Another of her legal admirers was Judge Henry M. Shepard 
of the Superior Court of Cook County, whose letters were 
flavored with a touch of gallantry. Sending her a note with 
some flowers he wrote: 

I except you from royalty whose invitations pass as commands, 
and I only do so on the ground that I like to feel myself so near 



The Nation s Hostess 707 

the throne of your favor as to dare to presume. Don t deny me 
this foolish sense of privilege. You have indulged me in it till I 
have become presumptuous, perhaps, but it is only against your 
generosity. ... I hope you will find a place to wear one of 
these flowers tomorrow. 

Mrs. Palmer was flooded with letters of all kinds after the 
Fair and many requests for help. She autographed thousands 
of cards and photographs. She had de luxe bound copies of her 
speeches sent to rulers and friends around the world. The 
winter that followed the Fair was a grim one. A financial col 
lapse a few weeks after it opened brought on a deep depres 
sion. More than five thousand banks failed and railroads went 
into receivership. Factories were shut down, stores went bank 
rupt, wages in general were cut in half and three million per 
sons were out of work. The streets were filled with beggars, 
many of them derelicts left over from the Fair. Breadlines 
stretched along the streets. Soup kitchens were opened and 
sixty thousand a day were fed free by the saloons and relief 
societies. Many of the homeless slept in hallways and on stone 
steps. 

The growing unrest that had permeated the industrial world 
for years exploded full strength in 1894 when Coxey s Army 
marched on the national capital and the Pullman riots focused 
the attention of the nation on Chicago. Eugene V. Debs engi 
neered a boycott on Pullman cars, affecting the twenty-two 
railroad lines coming into the city. Rioting followed and trans 
portation was halted. Cars were overturned. Capsized locomo 
tives were used to barricade tracks. Boxcars were burned. 
There was violence all over town. Pullman stubbornly refused 
to meet the workers and negotiate, in spite of pressure from 
all quarters. 

Finally President Cleveland sent in federal troops to quell 
the riots. Governor Altgeld protested that it was a state matter, 
and fomented a movement to strip Pullman of all power over 
the lives of his workers. Jane Addams called the railroad mag 
nate a modern King Lear. Lyman Gage and Mrs. Palmer, on 



loS Silhouette in Diamonds 

behalf of the Civic Federation, besought Pullman to compro 
mise. Calm and determined, Bertha reasoned with him, but in 
the end was outraged by the inflexibility of the friend who had 
sat so often at her dinner table and discussed the brotherhood of 
man. She had always been interested in Pullman Town, which 
its inhabitants now regarded as medieval and paternalistic. 
Theoretically it was an idyllic setting for the workersa model 
hill town close to Chicago with Dutch design cottages, Vene 
tian arcades, retail markets and stores, a hotel, a school and 
churches, a bandstand and an artificial lake. But the workers 
disliked the ban on beer gardens and saloons. And Debs pro 
tested that the kbor unions were frozen out* Finally, with the 
outbreak of the railroad strike, a concentrated attack was made 
on this particular form of philanthropy. 

Pullman was a friend of Potter Palmer s. He, too, had come 
from New York State, working first as a cabinetmaker, then 
raising Chicago on stilts, and ultimately getting backing from 
Marshall Field for his palace car operations. Bertha had 
watched him grow with the city. She often rode in his private 
cars. He was an important exhibitor at the Exposition and she 
was quite familiar with his philanthropies. Of all the rich men 
she knew he was perhaps the most dogmatic. He lived on 
Prairie Avenue close to Marshall Field and Philip D. Armour. 
He drove around in a huge victoria, a pompous figure 
with clenched mouth, chin whiskers of a reddish hue, and a 
silk hat always worn with his Prince Albert coat. He deferred 
to Mrs. Palmer as a worthy antagonist but was deaf to her 
arguments, so that a chill developed between them after the 
strike. It was late August before the men went back to work. 
No concessions had been made. Debs was sent to jail after a 
defense by Clarence Darrow. The workers were frozen out of 
the city of Pullman s creation. The railroad man was dead 
within three years and was memorialized as the poor man s 
friend 

But before the strike was over the Palmers were on their 



The Nation s Hostess 10$ 

way to Europe. Potter had been ailing ever since die Fair. 
They spent Christmas, 1894, at the Grand Hotel in Paris and 
from there went to Egypt to pass a month on the Nile. But 
they cut short their tour because of Palmer s health and took 
a cottage at Bar Harbor for the summer of 1895, as they had 
done the year before. He was suffering from rheumatism and 
was extremely frail by this time. His hair and beard were now 
snow-white. He could no longer even pretend to keep up the 
social pace set by his wife. The difference in their ages was 
quite apparent now, with Bertha approaching fifty but look 
ing no more than thirty-five. Her dark hair had been gray for 
years, but the effect was glamorous rather than aging. It was 
silvery and shining and her carefully arranged pompadour 
became her regular features, and emphasized the beauty of 
her large dark eyes. 

Both of the Potter Palmers enjoyed the festivities for the 
young. Julia Grant had joined them for the summer and she 
shared in the companionship of Honore and Potter, who had 
done well in school and college. Both were bright young men 
who responded amiably to friendly stimulus although they 
took the social picture much less seriously than their mother. 
They had sharp memories of too many large hotels, too much 
dressing up, too many servants at their heels, too much spit 
and polish that the "roughing it" periods had not quite offset. 
They were quiet boys, with interests of their own, and some 
of their father s homely sense of reality. His dry comments 
were a leavening influence in their lives. Julia found her Uncle 
Potter keen-witted and terse in his comments, and considered 
his judgment of men "admirable and always to be trusted." 

He was an inveterate shopper and preferred to do his own 
marketing at Bar Harbor although they had a staff of servants 
always at hand. When he was not tinkering with repairs, prun 
ing bushes, or peering over the chef s shoulder, he liked to 
shop. Cissie could not curb his constant interest in the small 
practical details of everyday living, however efficient her but- 



no Silhouette in Diamonds 

lers and gardeners. But her bills for this period show how 
simply they lived that summer at Bar Harbor. Twenty dinners 
at the Kebo Valley Club cost eighty dollars. LindalPs Orchestra 
played at one of their parties for forty-three dollars. Roses 
cost three dollars and fifty cents a bunch and the Palmer 
menage was supplied with three melons for ninety cents, five 
pounds of coffee for a dollar ninety, one pound of tea for 
ninety cents, three pints of ice cream for a dollar fifty and a 
pound of butter for fifty cents. Huyler s bill for marshmallows, 
mixed chocolates, Italian peppermints, vanilla bonbons, choc 
olate caramels and cream almonds came to twenty-two dol 
lars. 

Life at Bar Harbor was uncomplicated in comparison with 
Newport. Most of the social activity centered on the Kebo 
Valley Club, which had been in operation since 1887. It had 
a little theater, golf, tennis, croquet and a baseball field. Most 
of the young people s parties were held at the club and Mrs. 
Palmer found familiar Chicago faces all around her. The 
Eastern elite scarcely noticed her but Jane Addams tramped 
about in rubbers on the sunniest day, sneezing madly with hay 
fever as she raised money for her settlement. Mrs. Joseph T. 
Bowen, an old Michigan Avenue neighbor, had been a Bar 
Harbor visitor for years. S. Weir Mitchell, the author and 
an old friend of Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, was deeply committed 
to the foggy coast, and a scattering of well-known bishops 
summered at Mount Desert. Everyone was conscious of the 
pervasive presence of Joseph Pulitzer, running the New York 
World from his Tower of Silence at Bar Harbor. 

It was simple living for Mrs. Palmer and healthful for her 
husband. She took long walks and inhaled the sea air and the 
fog and charged her batteries for another season. The coast 
line was awesome when storms roared in. The trails over 
Mount Desert were a never-ending source of interest to the 
young, who went tramping, canoeing, sketching, rocking, 
fishing and dancing. Mrs. Palmer had all the latest books on 



The Nation s Hostess in 

hand, and the Century Magazine, Harper s, Scribner s, the 
North American Review and the Arena, as well as the Chicago 
and New York newspapers, lay about on wicker tables. 

She already had her eye on Newport when she returned to 
Chicago for the busy social season of 189596. She resumed 
her Federation work and made plans for the annual Charity 
Ball to be held after Christmas. Mrs. Palmer had brought this 
event to a new state of magnificence and had popularized it as 
a charity event for her own and other communities. It was 
regarded as a civic function of real significance and it received 
front-page attention in the Chicago papers, even though Ward 
McAllister considered this institution an abomination. Mrs. 
Palmer s name would always be associated with the Charity 
Ball. For weeks beforehand she dragooned the prominent 
men of the city into service. She wrote to them in simple, 
imperative terms, pointing out their civic duty. None dared 
deny her their support. The proceeds went to several different 
institutions. 

"The committee is enlarging the opening march of the Char 
ity Ball and wishes to have four columns instead of the usual 
two," she wrote to her friend and co-worker Franklin Mac- 
Veagh in December, 1895. "Gen. Merritt, Mr. Robt. Lincoln 
and perhaps Mr. Palmer will rally (or march) at the head of 
three columns and we hope you will take the fourth place. 
I trust that you will find it both convenient and agreeable to 
do so and that you will render this service to the cause of 
charity." 

She invited Charles L. Hutchinson, president of the Art 
Institute of Chicago, to the Union League Club for luncheon 
to discuss methods of whipping up interest in the ball. She 
insisted that Judge Lambert Tree join in the opening march, 
in order to make it thoroughly representative. She urged 
other well-known citizens to round up those who could best 
afford to pay for boxes. When all the carriages unloaded their 
owners at the Auditorium the assembled wealth was over- 



ii2 Silhouette in Diamonds 

whelming, since the Chicago fortunes were formidable, from 
packers to bankers, Mrs. Palmer always led one column her 
self with great dash, her best jewels and latest Paris gown on 
display, and the man of the hour on her arm. The West Divi 
sion, representing her old Ashland Avenue district, had its 
own imperial column, and the South Division was invariably 
headed by an impressive pair. 

As rime went on and Mrs. Palmer spent more of her time 
abroad Mrs. Marshall Field cut in to some degree on the Char 
ity Ball, but Bertha always came whipping home in time to 
take over. She viewed it seriously as a charity that must not 
be neglected, aside from the fact that her name was inevitably 
associated with it. Society as such was a mere excrescence on 
the human fabric, of no philosophic status whatever, she ob 
served once in giving a talk before a women s club. "If life is 
human intercourse, why not take it at its freest and broadest 
and see what humanity does with its largest opportunities?" 

Yet she herself was the very symbol of apartness. After the 
Fair she lived with the aloofness and style of a ruler, screened 
from the world by a staff of twenty-seven. Any attempts to 
reach her in her private citadel had to be channeled through 
this corps of social secretaries and servants. It was not yet the 
day of easy telephoning, and even her most intimate friends 
had to write for appointments. Her life was clear of small ob 
structions. She was buffered by servants, possessions, a devoted 
family. She had an impenetrable armor when she did not wish 
to be bothered, but a big issue caught her attention at once. 
Many thought her cold and distant because of the guarded 
life she led as rime went on. Indeed, she seemed to be passing 
beyond the common ken. But those who reached her found 
her easy and tolerant. She had a mild sense of humor and she 
brushed off flattery as easily as she did criticism. Self-control 
and a cool weighing of values were habitual to her, and she 
was not particularly gullible. She preferred people who were 
interesting and amusing and she had respect for achievement 
in any field. 



The Nation s Hostess 113 

But Mrs. Palmer was not patient with the lazy, the shirkers, 
the shiftless. Nor did she waste time on fools, bores or syco 
phants. Many flatterers crossed her path. If she was not im 
mediately alert to the siren song her down-to-earth husband 
was sure to put his finger on their insincerity. She grew more 
decisive and authoritative as the years went on, although her 
voice was still low-pitched and her manner serene. Even those 
closest to her found it a little hard at times to live up to her 
rigorous standards, but they also remember a disposition of 
sweetness and charm. By the close of the century she had sur 
vived a number of battles, but she did not like to fight. It was 
vulgar. It was tedious and fruitless. She preferred the art of 
compromise and she learned to sway small groups of men 
and women as she became more sure of herself in public. It 
was noted that Mrs. Palmer never seemed to push for what 
she wanted. She simply got it by exhibiting the most common 
sense, using a touch of diplomacy, and being so overpowering 
in personality that she checkmated opposition, insidious or out 
in the open. 

She managed to juggle the humanitarian and purely social 
areas of her life without conflict. In the end she was credited 
with running her own Four Hundred in Chicago. Invitations 
to her New Year s Day receptions were the hallmark of social 
acceptance. Those who were invited were in the swim for the 
rest of the year. Every two years she revised her lists and 
people were "in" or "out" as surely as in the case of the Social 
Register. "Her favor could make the social success of almost 
anyone, but she did not abuse her great power," commented 
the friendly Mrs. Carter H. Harrison. 

There were others in Chicago, however, who considered 
Mrs. Arthur J. Caton (later the second Mrs. Marshall Field) 
the true aristocrat and Mrs. Palmer the ambitious interloper 
who had used the Exposition to move up in the world. The 
Field and Palmer interests had stemmed from the same root 
and although the two families drifted apart as the years went 
on, inevitably there was strong mutual interest. Field s admira- 



H4 Silhouette in Diamonds 

tion for the discriminating and artistic Delia Caton was a mat 
ter of common knowledge. However, Mrs. Palmer was the 
hostess who loomed large in the public eye. Her methods were 
dashing, her prestige overpowering. She preferred to have 
things all her own way and indeed would insist on a free hand. 

On one occasion when asked to lend her support to a charity 
event at the Auditorium she said she would, but only if no one 
else interfered. She directed the performance from start to 
finish, ordered the flowers, the music, the decorations, and 
made it a one- woman show. Things were run with such taste 
and skill that not a murmur was heard. It had the Mrs. Potter 
Palmer touch. She could not tolerate the confusion, argu 
ment and overlapping that occurred when too many well- 
intentioned amateurs got into the act. There was always a 
right way to do things and she could show them how. 

Such was the aura of grandeur exuded by Mrs. Palmer that 
few ever suspected she had moments of loneliness. Other host 
esses were so intimidated that they never thought of inviting 
her to one of their more informal gatherings. Mrs. Henry M. 
Shepard, one of her closest friends, was astounded when 
Bertha confessed that there were times when she felt posi 
tively left out of things. "Of course," she said, "I can enter 
tain all the time, but I also like to go to other people s houses." 
The feeling prevailed that nothing less than a wedding, a 
debut or a function in honor of a visiting celebrity would bring 
Mrs. Palmer out of her ivory tower. The ordinary give-and- 
take of social life was not enough. But when she did show 
up for a commonplace luncheon or an informal evening every 
one commented on her "delightful, cordial presence," Mrs. 
Addie Hibbard Gregory, a family friend, recalled. 

One important man whom she could never be sure of hav 
ing at her functions was her own husband. Another was Abra 
ham Lincoln s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, who was devoted 
to her but was in poor health and could not always live up to 
Mrs. Palmer s demands. Potter had never cared for large-scale 



The Nation s Hostess 115 

entertaining and he became both bored and restless when 
seated next to the dowagers his wife chose to honor. He liked 
to talk about horses, art, politics or business, and he did not 
care for dancing. His range was not narrow but he seemed 
tongue-tied beside his brilliant wife, who could move quite 
nimbly from social chitchat to John Stuart Mill. Basically he 
disliked small talk and was happier in the company of his busi 
ness or racing cronies. He often entertained his family with 
his cynical observations about social pretension, although at 
times he was all but smothered in it. But one person who never 
bored him for an instant was Cissie. 

Ernest Poole, the writer, who used to go to the young 
people s parties at the Palmer house, made a number of first 
hand observations on Potter Palmer s bearing toward his wife. 
When he came home tired from the hotel he often went 
straight to a dressing room in the south side of the house 
which he particularly liked. It was sunny in the daytime and 
remote at night from the party clatter. He would appear for 
dinner if Cissie insisted and he liked to watch her across the 
ballroom as she presided at a dance or reception. Poole 
analyzed his expression on these occasions as being nothing 
short of adoration. He wrote of the "gleam in his wife-set 
eyes" and found that he could always start Palmer talking by 
asking questions about his wife. He was visibly pleased to see 
her enjoying herself in the ways that she preferred and he 
took the utmost pride in what she did, what she wore and 
how she looked. 

"There she stands with two hundred thousand dollars 
worth of jewels on her," he said to Poole on one occasion. 

Another time the writer found him slumped on a sofa while 
a ball was in progress. He asked Palmer if he were tired. 

"No, but my feet hurt," said his host plaintively. 

On the occasions when he did show up at his wife s parties 
he usually disappeared before the evening was over. Some said 
that Cissie kept her unpretentious husband in the background 



n6 Silhouette m Diamonds 

and was even unkind to him, but the truth was that Potter 
Palmer chose to keep himself out of sight and could scarcely 
be lured into public view by his wife. He had no wish to share 
the limelight with Bertha or to get too deeply involved in her 
social enterprises, although he was always ready to act as her 
escort if she needed him when they were away from home. 
But he still worked hard at his manifold interests and found it 
difficult to let go the strings of business. 

There were times when Cissie showed impatience over his 
disinclination to exert himself for a function. She looked upon 
the social setup as a business, however much of an "excres 
cence," and considered it the duty of every man and woman 
to find a place for himself in it. But. Potter s standing in the 
community was so solid that he had no pressing need to 
engage in the scramble and he never felt particularly at home 
at the fashionable Chicago Club, where Pullman, Armour, 
Field and others of his peers liked to gather. He was essentially 
a retiring and rather inarticulate man who attended to his 
business. But since his business brought him into touch with 
many world celebrities, and he had traveled widely, and had 
known the whims of Chicago s smartest matrons right back to 
the early days of his store, he was not at a loss when Cissie 
chose to bring him into view. 

By the 1890*5 he was even a little blase. Fast horses, a dog 
cart or coach-and-four, a celebrity or new gadget at the 
Palmer House, a ravishing necklace for Cissie, good marks 
for his sons at college, a park improvement for Chicago set 
him at peace with the world. His friends knew him as keen, 
shrewd and open-handed, and he never failed to keep his 
word. "He s a square shooter," said one of his colleagues about 
his business dealings. "Good old Potter Palmer/ went the 
chorus when his name came up. 

The guests seen most frequently at his home were the 
Arthur J. Catons, the Marshall Fields, the Cyrus McCormicks, 
the Joseph Medffls, the Franklin MacVeaghs, the W. W. 



The Nation s Hostess uj 

Kimballs, the Augustus Eddys and N. K. Fairbanks. In the 
younger set Moses Wentworth, John Crerar, Huntington 
Jackson, Wayne Chatfield, Wirt Dexter and Charles Schwartz 
turned up regularly at Mrs. Palmer s parties for her sons and 
Julia Grant. 

None knew how many of the civic measures they backed 
were Cissie s idea and how many were his, but together they 
made a strong working team and he had shown plenty of 
enterprise before he ever met Miss Honore. Mrs. Palmer still 
insisted that she had absorbed all her business wisdom from 
him. However, everyone knew that a good way to Potter 
Palmer s pocketbook was to engage his wife s interest in a 
project, and he liked to spread his gifts through her. The 
Potter Palmer philanthropy silenced to some extent the criti 
cism of such great expenditure for social display. Cissie in 
turn never failed to give him credit for what he did, and was 
most punctilious about bringing in her husband s name when 
flatterers chose to hang all the laurels on her. 

Both were thoughtful of their friends and made many small 
personal gifts aside from their large philanthropy. Joseph 
Medill thanked Potter Palmer for an "elegant cane to lean on 
in my advancing years" and Mrs. Palmer for the "handsome 
umbrella to ward off the heat and shed the rain." Judge 
Shepard sent eggs to Mrs. Palmer from his hennery when 
Potter was ailing, and she did many kind things for him, in 
addition to liking him sincerely. She was popular with judges 
and lawyers, who admired her reasoning powers and her clear 
headed approach to problems, but she distrusted bankers and 
told them little of her affairs. Mrs. Palmer could be the soul 
of discretion in business matters and she kept her own counsel 
with great pertinacity. One who knew her well observed that 
she was never driven into saying anything she had not planned 
to say. She studied a subject before she ventured an opinion 
on it, then weighed her words carefully, and usually refrained 
from hasty comments. The result was that she rarely got into 



Silhouette in Diamonds 1 



hot water on public issues, although the Chicago press turned 
to her as a natural target for comment. 

A competitive social spirit had developed in Chicago by the 
turn of the century. The city was losing some of its sturdy 
Western ways. More and more of its women went abroad as 
their husbands amassed great fortunes. Like Mrs. Palmer they 
now had chefs, butlers and footmen. They went in for 
cockaded English coachmen instead of Negro or Scandinavian 
drivers. They shopped in London, Paris, Vienna and Rome. 
They were becoming cosmopolitan and intermarriage with 
titled Europeans had deepened this alienation from their native 
roots. Ethel Field married Arthur M. Tree and went off to 
live in England. After bearing him three children she divorced 
him and married David Beatty, who later became Admiral 
Beatty, commander of the British Fleet. The three beautiful 
Leiter daughters found British husbands. Mary married Lord 
Curzon in 1895, Daisy later married the Earl of Suffolk and 
Nancy became the wife of Major Colin Campbell, so that the 
Leiter links with Britain were strong. 

Although she bought most of her gowns in Paris Mrs. 
Palmer still liked to shop at Marshall Field & Company. Its 
buyers roamed the world rounding up the latest luxuries. The 
traveled women of Chicago had become more demanding 
about their linens, their china and crystal. Field had established 
agencies in Europe and the Orient. By this time his neat mus 
tache had turned white and his blue-gray eyes glinted like 
frost as he greeted Mrs. Palmer. His rigid, courteous manner 
had been familiar to her for many years. He was now a much 
richer man than her husband but he did not like to let his 
affluence show. He drove to the store at nine each morning 
but always got out a block away and walked the final stretch, 
so as not to seem pretentious. 

Like Potter Palmer he still preferred to rule alone. Harlow 
N. Higinbotham had joined the firm in 1879, Harry Gordon 
Selfridge in 1890 and John G. Shedd in 1893 but none was 



The Natiotfs Hostess //p 

accepted into full partnership. The store by this time had 
thousands of employees and covered all but one corner of the 
State Street block. Its white columns, wide galleries and 
artistically arranged counters bore little resemblance to the 
original Potter Palmer store. It had a restaurant that seated 
two thousand and women used it as a club where they could 
rest, write letters and meet friends as well as exchange notes 
on their bargains. 

The Field house on Prairie Avenue was designed by Richard 
Morris Hunt. In no way did it resemble the Palmer castle on 
Lake Shore Drive. It was a three-story mansion of red brick, 
trimmed with stone. An iron grille surrounded its lawns and 
its conservatory was immense. Field had insisted on a simple 
exterior after studying the ornate effect of Pullman s house a 
block away. Indoors the ivory and gold drawing room was 
always pleasing to Mrs. Palmer and a circular staircase of 
carved wood gave magnificence to the hall. But the total 
effect was austere, like Field himself, who drank little, ate 
abstemiously, rarely smoked, and moved through the business 
of the day with quiet aloofness. He had as little taste for social 
gatherings as Potter Palmer but he was a suaver type. His wife 
Nannie, however, worried considerably about the growing 
prestige of Mrs. Potter Palmer, in spite of their friendly rela 
tions. Her Mikado ball for young Marshall was the most dis 
cussed party of the i88o s in Chicago. But after the Fair Mrs. 
Palmer outdistanced all other hostesses and Mrs. Field was 
forced to take second place. Every time that Bertha came back 
from Europe she was struck by the rapid changes that her 
favorite city was undergoing. She could see the effect of the 
Fair in many of the new buildings going up. A fire soon after 
the closing had burned the Administration and Manufacturers 
Buildings and other parts of the Fair. But Marshall Field had 
given a million dollars and assembled many of the better 
exhibits in the Columbian Museum, which later became the 
Field Museum of Natural History. Now the same architects 



220 Silhouette in Diamonds 

who had designed the Fair buildings were changing the face 
of Chicago. Italian Renaissance effects prevailed, with a scat 
tering of French Renaissance, Georgian and Colonial houses 
for those who could afford them. Cupolas, cornices and the 
external embellishments of the brewers castles in Milwaukee 
were now considered lacking in taste. But friezes and frescoes, 
painted cherubs and allegorical paintings were in high esteem 
and Hunt went in for palm courts and Byzantine rooms. The 
new office buildings, however, were models of solid simplicity 
and dignified structure. 

The Cyrus McCormick home, often visited by the Potter 
Palmers, had tapestries on its dining room walls and a hall with 
frescoes copied from one of the castles of King Henry IV in 
France. Several of the homes well known to them had Gabriel 
Ferrier murals, and bit by bit private art galleries were de 
veloping from small collections of pictures. Yerkes had Dutch 
masters. Samuel M. Nickerson, president of the First National 
Bank, had works by Dore, Inness and Corot, and Hutchinson 
was putting together a good art collection of his own. The 
Palmers themselves by this time had the most dazzling collec 
tion of modern paintings to be found in the United States. 

Jackson Park was now given over to boulevards, to land 
scaping and bathing beaches. Washington Park had playfields, 
bathing and pony phaetons. Lincoln Park, with its magnificent 
sweep along the lake front, had imposing statues and fine 
landscaping. Sight-seers still viewed the city from the Audi 
torium Tower and the Masonic Temple, the tallest building of 
its day. "The Fair awoke the American sense of beauty," com 
mented Julian Street. "Chicago is stupefying. ... It stands 
apart from all the cities in the world ... a prodigious para 
dox in which youth and maturity, brute strength and soaring 
spirit, are harmoniously fused." 

When Mrs. Palmer looked around her she felt that the Fair 
had indeed made a difference to Chicago and to her. But 
early in 1896 she was hankering for other worlds. During her 



The Nation s Hostess 121 

travels she had observed the interesting lives of the diplomats 
abroad, so that she was not blind to the chance to get some 
solid recognition for her husband and perhaps some prestige 
for herself when Adlai E. Stevenson, the Vice President, pro 
posed that Potter be appointed successor to Theodore Runyon 
as United States Ambassador in Berlin. The Stevensons were 
old friends of the Palmers. Mrs. Stevenson, the former Letitia 
Green, was a Kentuckian, like Bertha. 

Judges, lawyers, bankers, businessmen, members of the 
Chamber of Commerce, politicians, prominent women, all 
took a hand in the matter and Mrs. Palmer functioned quite 
openly in support of the nomination. Several of Palmer s most 
important supporters, in pleading the case, pointed out what 
an asset his wife would be on the ambassadorial front. But 
Bertha was realistic about the appointment. 

She wrote to Senator William Lindsay on January 28, 1896, 
suggesting that she hoped for a strong showing, even though 
there was little chance of the appointment coming to a 
Westerner. She cited her husband s long and honorable busi 
ness career, his intelligence, sagacity and probity, together 
with his services to Chicago along broad and farsighted lines. 
She reminded the Senator that her husband had constantly 
served his party, in days of adversity as well as prosperity, and 
had never asked for anything in return, adding: "I think Mr. 
Palmer would greatly appreciate the honor and compliment, 
and as for myself, I should welcome anything that would take 
him away from the routine of fixed business habits of a life 
timewhich would allow a tapering off, as it were, without 
too sudden a break." 

Mrs. Palmer conducted her campaign in grim earnest. She 
whipped up interest among old Kentucky friends to draw in 
outside support for her husband. She sought backing in New 
England and the Far West, and appealed to colleagues who 
had worked with her at the Columbian Exposition. News 
paper owners in Chicago, Washington and Chattanooga beat 



122 Silhouette in Diamonds 

the drums for Potter Palmer. She felt sure of Chief Justice 
Melville W. Fuller but not of her fellow Kentucltian, Justice 
John Marshall Harlan. She had doubts about Daniel S. Lamont, 
Secretary of War. 

President Cleveland, who knew Mrs. Palmer well, found the 
assault coming at him from all quarters. Adlai Stevenson made 
a personal plea and Philip D. Armour wrote to him that the 
country s interests "and especially the interests of the North 
west could not be better served than by his appointment." 
United States Attorney John C. Black, of Chicago, assured 
him that the appointment of Potter Palmer would be only half 
the ensuing benefit. There would also be Mrs. Potter Palmer, a 
woman "in every way admirably capacitated and adapted to 
aid her husband." Senator Daniel W. Voorhees volunteered 
the opinion that "Palmer and his admirable lady would give 
distinction to such a position abroad." 

It was a strong political gesture by Mrs. Palmer but it failed. 
The President thought it unwise to assign a stranger to State 
Department matters left unfinished by Runyon. Edwin F. 
Uhl, his assistant, was appointed to fill the post. Joseph Medill, 
much disappointed, assured Bertha that her friends had done 
all that was possible under the circumstances. But she had to 
find out who had supported her husband and who had op 
posed him. James H. Eckels, of the Treasury Department, 
who had clear recollections of Mrs. Palmer s expert financial 
dealings with him at the time of the Fair, humored her in this 
although it was contrary to custom. 

For once in her life she was a loser but she accepted defeat 
philosophically and did not bear any grudges. His failure to 
get the diplomatic post was no great blow to her husband. It 
may even have been a relief. There were times when her family 
wished that there were greater worlds for her to conquer. Her 
sister Ida believed that with all her femininity she had the 
makings of a statesman, a diplomat or a captain of industry. 
She viewed Bertha as a type whose "law was justice rather 



The Nation s Hostess 123 

than sentiment, whose strength was stability rather than 
passion." 

But life always moved on briskly for Mrs. Palmer. There 
was no time for regrets. She had no sooner learned of the Uhl 
appointment than she and Potter sailed for Russia to attend the 
coronation of Czar Nicholas II. She traveled on the diplomatic 
basis in any event, for all the courtesies accorded to ambassadors 
were extended to the Palmers, and the Russians who had been 
at the Exposition as commissioners paid them great attention. 
Bertha was much impressed with the crown jewels and the 
court pomp. She met the Queen of Greece as well as the 
Czarina. She had no idea then that her niece Julia would soon 
be a popular figure at the Russian court. They returned with 
a number of Russian treasures including a rare icon, a copy of 
the Kazan madonna in rhinestones, a silver medal of Peter the 
Great, a choice chalice in dark blue enamel. 

They were back in Chicago in time to attend the Demo 
cratic presidential convention and Bertha, who never missed 
these quadrennial events, listened with genuine excitement to 
William Jennings Bryan deliver his Cross of Gold speech. She 
and her old friend Mrs. Henrotin attended every session and 
it was noted in the papers that never before had Chicago 
women of prominence shown such public interest in a political 
convention. The curious wished to know if Mrs. Palmer ac 
tually advocated free silver. She certainly occupied a platform 
seat, gave a big reception at her home for the delegates, and 
hobnobbed with the Bryans, but she had nothing to say on the 
subject. 

She found the Coliseum an improvement over the old Wig 
wam, where Lincoln was nominated. Bertha had known both. 
She was always a staunch Democrat, even in the days of the 
Grants, and some of her women friends thought her overly 
interested in politics. She could hold her own in debate with 
any man in the field and dinner conversation at the Palmer 
home during this period was strongly political. It was a year 



124 Silhouette in Diamonds 

of mass meetings, rallies and parades, and Mrs. Palmer enjoyed 
every minute of the political excitement. Bryan was ubiquitous, 
while William McKinley sat on his shaded porch in Canton 
and waited for the lightning to strike. 

It was evident to her friends at this time that Mrs. Palmer 
was restless for larger things. Though her plans for her hus 
band had fallen through she had a new goal in mind political 
office for her oldest son Honore when he graduated from 
Harvard. Philanthropy no longer satisfied her urge for public 
service. She was moving into an area where the Palmer family 
might aim at taking a more positive part in civic government. 



7 

Concfuest of Newport 



Mrs. Potter Palmer stormed Newport so 
convincingly in the eyes of her fellow citizens in the late 
1890 $ that the reigning dowagers had to pause and give the 
Middle West a nod. She had quietly staked out her ground 
while they asked one another who this rich intruder might be. 
Her name suggested the Palmer House, the World s Fair, 
some freakish art, a monstrous castle where everyone from 
abroad was entertained. Surely she was not a serious contender 
for the holy of holies. 

London knew her. Paris knew her. She had a nimbus of 
public endeavor and a dusting of fame. She had called herself 
the nation s hostess at the rime of the Fair but Newport, 
immune to invasion, sniffed at such pretension. However, 
where waves of contenders had tried and failed Mrs. Palmer 
took the hurdles with a flourish. "No aspirant for social 
recognition ever won a Newport campaign so quickly," 
Munsey s Magazine reported in October, 1900. She made her 
first strong impression in the summer of 1 896 with the coming- 
out dance she gave at Arleigh for her niece, Julia Grant. Two 
seasons kter she fortified her position by becoming the favored 

12$ 



126 Silhouette in Diamonds 

hostess of the Prince of Flanders, destined to be King Albert 
of Belgium, and Victor Emmanuel, Prince of Turin. 

Chicago was a distant and alien city to the blue bloods of 
the East. To them it reeked of meat packing and strikes. But 
its people stood firm in their just self-esteem and a few days 
after Julia s debut a large bulletin hung in the front window 
of one of its newspaper offices, while passers-by stopped to 
read: "MRS. PALMER A QUEEN." This was no great surprise to 
those who had already crowned her. 

"Newport seems nearer to Chicago since last Tuesday night 
when Mr. and Mrs. Potter Palmer gave their beautiful ball at 
Arleigh/ commented Elite on September 5, 1896. But this 
same publication deplored the fulsome accounts of the party 
appearing in the Chicago papers. Taking another view of the 
event, the editorial continued: 

Mrs. Palmer s triumph, Mrs. Palmer s success, Mrs. Palmer s 
victory, indeed! ... If any such heroic words are descriptive of 
the event they should be applied to the "other party." Not Mrs. 
Palmer, but Newport won that right. For it was emphasized on 
that occasion that the social colony there had attracted and added 
to its circle a beautiful and brilliant member, qualified to receive 
and reciprocate its politest and most distinguished hospitalities. 

Newport had given Mrs. Palmer the cold shoulder at first 
and no one had even noticed her at Bar Harbor, but the Mid- 
westerners knew that if anyone could open the golden gates 
it would be their own Mrs. Palmer, however false the gods 
within. Those who concerned themselves with such matters 
were happy to see the granddaughter of General Ulysses S. 
Grant who would certainly not have cared make a splash 
under Mrs. Potter Palmer s wing. The soft September night 
was one that Julia long remembered. Her aunt shimmered like 
Diana, wearing a tiara and her collar of pearls and diamonds 
with a white satin gown threaded with silver. Honore and 
Potter were with her and two hundred guests danced the 
night away in a ballroom decked with pink and white roses. 



Conquest of Newport 727 

Garlands festooned the balustrades and Roman floral wreaths 
hung by rose silk ribbons. Live rosebushes bloomed indoors 
and the girls carried shepherdesses crooks trimmed with lilies 
made from the plumage of birds, as they moved in a glow of 
tinted electric lights strung through vines. 

The pick of the social crop was present, including Mrs. 
William Astor, and this was a triumph for Mrs. Potter Palmer. 
Newport was the summer stronghold of the first families of 
the East. Like other self-respecting residents of Chicago Bertha 
had never genuflected to New York. She was too sophisticated 
not to realize that only the hardiest tackled Newport, but she 
was used to the top classification wherever she settled, and 
expected it as her right. Chicago definitely considered her 
"in," even if her name has been somewhat obscured in the 
annals of Newport society. 

Ward McAllister died shortly before her arrival but his 
dictum that "Newport was the place above all others to take 
social root in" still prevailed. However, he had considered it 
essential for the aspirant "to sit on the stool of probation for 
at least four seasons." He had warned them not to outshine the 
established cottagers with their jewels, clothes and parties. 
And Harry Lehr had urged those who had any doubts about 
their eligibility to be wise and stay away. Poised, intelligent, 
of good lineage and substantial wealth, the commanding Mrs. 
Palmer had no qualms about her acceptance. She had merely 
to be herself to make an impression. But she moved carefully 
on the Newport scene and her parties were modest compared 
with the costume balls, the great outdoor fetes and aquatic 
picnics, the imported theatrical casts for an evening s enter 
tainment, the ten-course dinners stretching over three boring 
hours, and such freak events as a gathering of a hundred dogs 
in silly ruffles barking their way through a "Dogs Dinner." 

Like Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish, who considered herself far from 
rich because she had only a few millions, the Palmers, with 
eight millions tightly invested in real estate, were mere paupers 



228 Silhouette in Diamonds 

compared with the Vanderbilts, Astors, Belmonts and some 
of the other cottagers. But wealth was not the answer, al 
though it helped to rip the scales. Newport had its own par 
ticular quality, a chilling hauteur that money could not thaw 
nor good intentions melt. Fame, philanthropy, talent played 
around the edges of family prestige but the solid core was ice. 

However, Mrs. Palmer moved with ease and assurance 
through the marble palaces, the turreted chateaux and archi 
tectural extravagances on the rocky coast of Rhode Island. 
She was well aware that on the international front her own 
castle on Lake Shore Drive was the most widely advertised 
of them all. She rented Arleigh, Friedheim and Beaulieu in 
turn, and settled smoothly into the milieu of powdered foot 
men and gold plate. She had stayed in some of the stateliest 
homes of Victorian England and in French chateaux, where 
she was particularly welcome. She was quite at home in the 
coaching parade. When it came to blooded horses and elaborate 
equipages the Potter Palmers could hold their own. Her 
maroon-liveried coachmen took their place in the flowing line 
of barouches, phaetons and landaus, demi-Daumonts and tan 
dems that moved along Bellevue Avenue. 

But the walls of Jericho did not crumble overnight. There 
were plenty of important parties to which Mrs. Potter Palmer 
was not invited. Great yachts that she never boarded rocked 
in the harbor. Chilly glances shot from passing carriages as 
she smiled and bowed in all the right directions. Her jewels 
were impressive perhaps too impressive but Mrs. Elbridge T. 
Gerry s diamonds quite outshone the gems on Mrs. Palmer s 
cuirass bodice at a naval ball. Three bands drowned out her 
velvety voice as she chatted with Mrs. Astor and found herself 
talking into space. Her husband was by no means drawn into 
the inner coterie of men at the Casino. 

But the spray, the drift, the wholesome smell of the sea were 
pervasive at Newport and there was always ground for 
optimism. Lawns, shrubs and foliage stayed green and fresh 



Conquest of Newport 129 

in the misted air. Flowers bloomed in vivid patches in the 
Casino grounds, and the polo field at the Country Club was a 
flawless stretch of closely cropped sward. Yachting parties 
and desultory bathing in muffling togs linked the cottagers 
with the sea. From time to time great storms roared in, crash 
ing on the rocks and reminding the summer colony in its 
buffered paradise of the violent forces of nature. 

Mrs. Palmer enjoyed the storms, as she did the purple sun 
sets and changing moods of sea and sky. She was always alert 
to the wonders of nature and found nothing at Newport to 
dash her buoyant spirits. She had friends in court from 
the beginning. August Belmont admired her, and the 
Stuyvesant Fish family had old associations with the Grants. 
She was not dismayed by Mamie Fish s tart comments and 
witchlike proddings, but recognized her as a kindred spirit 
who kept her household affairs in order and knew what was 
going on in the kitchen of her porticoed villa high over 
Spouting Rock Beach. The Fishes for the time being were 
in mourning for their son and did not entertain, but Mrs, Fish, 
Mrs. Hermann Oelrichs and Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont were 
challenging Mrs. Astor s invincibility when Mrs. Palmer came 
on the scene. Bertha quietly took stock of the feuds, ambitions 
and inherited self-assurance that surrounded her. Since she 
was not in the inner circle she could view the field with cool 
appraisal. 

Three of the reigning duchesses in Britain Roxburgh, Marl- 
borough and Manchester had inhaled the choice Newport air 
as they summered along Cliff Walk in their early years. Bertha 
was already quite familiar with Mrs. Paran Stevens, who had 
found her own niche at Newport in spite of the fact that she, 
too, was an innkeeper s wife. Long before her daughter be 
came Mrs. Arthur Paget and a favorite of King Edward VII 
"Auntie Paran" had rocketed across the social scene with her 
particular brand of individualism, giving musicales and speak 
ing her mind to all who would listen. 



230 Silhouette in Diamonds 

If the Middle West had only a small representation at New 
port, Mrs. Palmer found familiar faces among its visitors, 
ranging from such different types as her old friend Julia Ward 
Howe to Oliver Wendell Holmes and Henry James. Writers, 
artists and savants, as well as historic families, had found their 
way to Newport in the days since the Civil War, an under 
standable union of interests to the cosmopolitan Mrs. Palmer. 
Edith Wharton (Pussy Jones) had written her first novel at 
Pencraig and John Singer Sargent, who viewed the Impres 
sionists with a friendly eye, was deeply committed to the 
rugged coast and an admirer of its lichened rocks and the 
hardy growth of eglantine and wild roses that thrived on 
the sea winds. 

As she surveyed the mansions of Newport Mrs. Palmer was 
well aware that the more spectacular could be credited to 
Richard Morris Hunt, her old ally at the World s Fair who 
had put his stamp on American architecture. He had designed 
the Marble House for the O. H. P. Belmonts and The Breakers 
for Cornelius Vanderbilt, a mansion destined eventually to 
become the headquarters of the Newport Preservation Society 
when the old guard abandoned its stronghold. He had helped 
to transform the coast resort from the comparative rusticity 
of its Knickerbocker days into a phalanstery of marble that 
fifty years later would crumble and decay, giving ghostly 
echoes to a festival of jazz. 

But at the turn of the century Newport was at its full mao-- 
nificence, in the last carefree days of a dying era. There were 
no premonitory signs that things were about to be different. 
Children bearing famous names in American social history 
drove about with their English governesses in little basket 
carts with striped awnings, or spaded sand, or rode their 
ponies, all part of the daily ritual of the resort. Some were 
headed for disaster; others for solid citizenship. 

Mrs. Palmer found her bearings quickly. Potter Palmer, 
more than his wife, felt the chill of Newport. His health was 



Conquest of Newport 131 

poor at the time and he stayed well in the background. He had 
none of the picturesque attributes that might have made him 
a character, like some other men of achievement who en 
livened the scene at the Rhode Island resort. He was never 
disposed to draw attention to himself and his wife so over 
shadowed him on all occasions that few realized how freely he 
exercised his dry wit during their five seasons at Newport. He 
was not unduly impressed with Mrs. Astor or Mrs. Astor s 
horse. He had seen the world flow by at his hotel for a good 
many years, and he had none of his wife s reverence for social 
effect. He stubbornly went his own way and not even Cissie 
could shake him in his convictions. The impression prevailed 
at Newport that somehow he had lagged along the way while 
she had made a rapid climb to prominence. But Mrs. Palmer 
now had the conventional desire to see her sons and niece 
marry well, and she had enough social drive for two. 

There was no awkwardness in her and she had perfect self- 
control. She brushed off small social snubs as she might 
troublesome mosquitoes. She was smooth, almost cold in her 
manner at Newport, except with her family and intimates. 
Unlike some other imposing matrons at that resort her diction 
was impeccable. She did not garble her words like Mrs. Leiter 
of Chicago or lace her conversation with cheerful insults, like 
Mrs. Fish. She was not biting, and rarely witty, so that no one 
could cite her bons mots. But clever men were thankful to sit 
beside her at dinner because she was well informed, direct in 
manner, and always practical in her point of view. Only a few 
found her intimidating. She discussed business or politics with 
equal authority and was not egotistical in her conversation. 
Years earlier she had learned to play smoothly to her audience. 
Wives might look scathingly at her sunbursts and the width 
of her dog collars but it was hard to beat down the combina 
tion of Mrs. Palmer s knowledge and Mrs. Palmer s charm 
where their husbands were concerned. On the distaff side she 
was less convincing. She did not waste her time on gossip and 



i$2 Silhouette In Diamonds 

her dark eyes were coldly disapproving when scandal was 
brought up over the teacups. Although never a conformist she 
stood for social suavity. Good manners were fundamental to 
her code. 

In any event the deep freeze that was Newport s prescrip 
tion for the socially pushing who had somehow found their 
way to its rocky ramparts failed to work with Mrs. Potter 
Palmer. After she had roped in the European princes invita 
tions came to her thick and fast. But Newporters watched 
attentively when the Queen of the West and the Queen of the 
East faced each other in a ballroom. It was a piquant social 
situation that ended in a draw. 

A race was on to catch the royal visitors, but Mrs. Palmer 
had already established such warm relations with the House of 
Flanders and Queen Margherita of Italy that the princes of 
both houses had been primed to pay special attention to the 
chairman of the board of lady managers of the Exposition. It 
was not mere chance that Bertha walked off with the lion s 
share as hostess. This was an era when a foreign prince was 
considered a catch. Titles were in high esteem at Newport. 
She had a head start since she already knew Prince Albert and 
had promised him in Belgium that she would assemble the 
most attractive girls in America for his benefit, when he jest 
ingly told her that one day he would visit the United States 
in search of a rich and beautiful wife. 

He was the first of the princes to arrive. Albert was tall, fair 
and quiet, the Viking type, and he was much more interested 
in the small navy ships of a new design then in the harbor than 
he was in ballroom dancing. Wearing overalls he crawled 
around in the ships and examined the engines, so that the 
Palmers could scarcely get him away from the docks. They 
had rented Friedheim, which belonged to the Havemeyer 
family and was one of the more beautiful homes of Newport. 
The Prince stayed there for several days and all the social 
events centered around the Palmer villa for the time beino-. A 



Conquest of Newport 755 

group of attractive young people were on hand to entertain 
him but he showed a serious streak that surprised them. 

Eighty guests attended the dinner that Mrs. Palmer gave in 
his honor. A musicale and reception followed. All was done in 
quiet good taste. She was well aware that her critics thought 
her ostentatious. There were no freak divertissements for visit 
ing royalties. The favors were expensive but plain. Tiffany 
designed the menus. She had invited Cardinal Gibbons to 
come from Baltimore for the dinner she gave for the Prince. 
In his reply he mentioned "a most pleasant recollection of 
your hospitality while I was in Chicago" and regretted that he 
could not go to Newport. Mrs. Palmer next gave a luncheon 
for the Prince in the grillroom of the Casino and he left New 
port with great good will all round, although he had seemed 
stiff and joyless to the younger set. 

But the Prince of Turin was a different type worldly and 
gallant and he loved to dance. He was Queen Margherita s 
nephew and twice removed from the Italian throne. He stayed 
part of the time with Mrs. John Thompson Spencer of Phila 
delphia at her colonial-style house high on Ruggles Avenue. 
She had known him in Europe. But the dinner given by Mrs. 
Palmer in his honor was conceded to be the major event of 
his stay. It was held on a hot night in July and again Mrs. 
William Astor, the mightiest of them all, was a gracious guest 
at Mrs. Palmer s board. She, too, entertained him in majestic 
fashion. He stayed two weeks in all and enjoyed the informal 
ity of the resort as well as the more pompous parties. He 
was enthusiastic about a clambake at the Sqantum Club, and 
had a merry time aboard the Gerry yacht with seventy-five 
other guests, including Mrs. Potter Palmer breezing along in 
trim yachting rig with a floating cloud of heavy white veiling. 
He was toasted by Chauncey Depew at a formal luncheon and 
he golfed every day with Julia Grant and other attractive 
girls. The Casino dances were lively while he was there and 
the Italian anthem was heard repeatedly. Before he left he was 



i$4 Silhouette in Diamonds 

rated a regular prince and the New York World observed that 
he seemed to have the social spirit more strongly developed in 
him than the Prince of Flanders. 

Some of Mrs. Palmer s critics now came out in the open and 
called her the snob of snobs, snaring foreign princes, crashing 
a sacred fortress with Midwestern impudence, trying to marry 
of? Julia to a prince and indulging in crass ostentation. But the 
more seasoned dowagers were inclined to go her way. They 
no longer resisted Mrs. Potter Palmer after she had proved 
herself so effective and talented a hostess. In addition, some 
liked her direct and generous manner, and none could deny 
that her sons were quiet, good fellows, her brothers were at 
tractive, and her niece was an asset to any party. 

Mrs. Palmer was regarded among the more leisurely and 
well-padded matrons as being uncomfortably energetic. She 
spurned feathered negligees and breakfast in bed. It was her 
custom to be up and about before eight o clock. She liked to 
walk, and breathe the ozone, and enjoy the trail along the 
rocky coast where wild roses bloomed by the wayside and tall 
irises cast purple shadows on the heath. Hollyhocks and blue 
hydrangeas were more symbolic of Ocean Drive, where she 
was observed one day indulging in an act of mercy that 
seemed to astonish observers. Driving along in her landau she 
caught up with an old woman who was stumbling in the dust, 
obviously quite ill and helpless, as equipages swept past her 
for the afternoon drive. Bertha helped the woman into her 
own carriage, and ordered her driven home to a remote part 
of Newport, while she continued on foot. The New York 
Herald reported this as an awesome piece of good Samaritan- 
ism along the wayside by Mrs. Potter Palmer of Chicago but 
she viewed it more sensibly as an everyday piece of business. 
However, the reporters were right in concluding that she was 
not one of the herd but an individualist. The Eastern papers 
began to notice her doings at Newport. 

Any girl who wished to make her way in society, Ward 



Conquest of Newport i$$ 

McAllister had said, "should have a pair of ponies, a pretty 
trap, with a well-gotten up groom, and Worth to dress her." 
Julia Grant had all of these, thanks to her aunt, and the young 
people enjoyed themselves in their own way. They rode and 
picnicked, went crabbing and catboating, danced and dined, 
played golf and tennis, as the spirit moved them. Every little 
suburb was laying out golf links in 1896, and Mrs. Palmer had 
taken up the game with her usual proficiency. Bicyclists began 
to whiz about but her family preferred their horses. She was a 
keen sportswoman at this time, but was too energetic to enjoy 
giving up a whole afternoon to watching a tennis tournament, 
although always quite willing to play, or to stride across the 
golf course. It was her nature to be more of a participant than 
a spectator. She was expert at bridge and cribbage. She even 
learned to drive a car, an interest that Honore, fresh from 
Harvard, took up with enthusiasm. O. H. P. Belmont and 
Harry Payne Whitney touched off the craze and soon the 
"bubbles," as they were called, were crowding the carriages 
at Newport. These daredevil objects had skittish names like 
Blue Butterfly and Red Devil, and women whose yachting, 
golfing and bicycling attire was already the cartoonist s de 
light, now added dusters and goggles, and swathed their cart 
wheel hats in foolproof veils. Automobiles became the great 
new rage. It was chic to race and clever to whiz past one s 
neighbor on the road with a mad honking of horns. 

Life took on a more serious note, however, with the out 
break of the Spanish-American War. The women assembled at 
the Casino in the mornings to sew for the soldiers, under Mrs. 
Astor s direction. Fred Grant and Algernon Sartoris, son of 
the man who had married Nellie Grant, both were in service. 
Ida was summoned to join Fred in Puerto Rico, where he was 
serving as military governor and Mrs. Palmer decided to take 
Julia abroad with her that winter. Her husband s health had 
been wretched all summer and he was in no condition to face 
the Chicago cold. 



136 Silhouette in Diamonds 

Passing through New York Bertha lost a diamond and 
emerald bracelet in a box at the Metropolitan Opera and did 
not miss it until an usher turned it in to the police. It was the 
second most valuable piece of jewelry ever found at the opera. 
She was inclined to be offhand with her jewels and they were 
a matter of great concern to her secretaries and personal maids. 
Her staff were always glad when Mr. Palmer took charge of 
them, as he frequently did. He chose to carry her jewel case 
when they traveled, and he frequently slept with valuable 
pieces under his pillow. 

Laura Hayes, one of her secretaries, once sat up all night in 
an armchair in a European hotel with the jewels hidden behind 
her in an evening cloak. The rustle of a curtain, the slightest 
sound, made her jump with fright, for Mrs. Palmer had flung 
a fortune into her hands at the last minute as she left for a ball. 
She had been undecided what jewels to wear that evening. She 
had her emeralds, pearls and diamonds brought to her suite 
from the hotel safe. At the last moment she chose a magnificent 
combination of emeralds and left her pearls and diamonds in 
Miss Hayes keeping, telling her to take care of them until she 
returned from the ball. Mrs. Palmer never worried at all about 
the safety of her collection, which had now reached imposing 
proportions. 

Most of the pieces had been bought by Potter Palmer in the 
Paris branch of Tiffany s. The jewel salesmen of Paris liked to 
do business with this knowing merchant, aside from the large 
sums he paid for his wife s adornment. They always felt that he 
knew what he was doing, and rare pieces were brought to his 
attention. He would survey the field, make his selections, have 
special designs drawn up, then have them submitted to Cissie 
for her approval She trusted implicitly in his taste in such 
matters. 

She concentrated largely on diamonds and pearls. Her pearls 
gave luminosity to her fine skin and she wore them quite 
effectively. Her most commented-on piece was a seven-strand 



Conquest of Newport 737 

collar which had 2,268 pearls and seven diamonds. She was 
also particularly fond of a pink pearl as large as a hazelnut 
which she wore as a pendant. Her star sapphire and canary dia 
mond rings were famous. She had tiaras and stomachers and 
a necklace of diamond stars that she wore frequently with 
black velvet. One pearl and diamond corsage brooch was a 
veritable sunburst. By the turn of the century her jewel col 
lection was rated one of the most unusual in the world. It was 
certainly one of the best displayed, and it was sometimes com 
pared with that of Queen Margherita, whose gems were fa 
mous. On several occasions Mrs. Palmer and the Queen dis 
cussed their jewels and once at tea the Queen observed: "Oh, 
so you have a star sapphire, too." 

Bertha drew off her ring. The Queen examined it closely 
and sent for hers. Comparisons were made and Margherita 
seemed to feel that hers was the choicer sapphire. Mrs. Palmer 
was not so sure she was right. But no one questioned the fact 
that she wore her jewels with real distinction. It was the 
fashion of the day to mass tiaras, collar necklaces, earrings, 
stomachers, brooches, rings and bracelets into one grand array, 
and at times the effect was overpowering. In 1904 when she 
was crossing on the Kaiser Wilhelm she walked in late to the 
ship s concert, wearing a Worth gown and her most spectacu 
lar jewels. Alois Burgstaller, of the Metropolitan, was in the 
middle of an aria. He stopped dead as everyone in the saloon 
turned to gaze at Mrs. Potter Palmer of Chicago. The dazzle 
of her jewels in the half-light was positively blinding. 

It was noted in the papers on both sides of the Atlantic that 
the diamonds in her tiara on this occasion were the size of 
Tokay grapes, and that she wore a sunburst of diamonds nearly 
ten inches in diameter, as well as her pearl collar and a flashing 
stomacher. But she had plenty of competition at this time. 
George W. Vanderbilt had given his bride a ruby necklace 
valued at $100,000. Mrs. William Astor s jewels were reported 
to be worth $340,000, including a dog collar that rivaled Mrs. 



2$!! Silhouette in Diamonds 

Potter Palmer s. Mrs, O. H. P. Belmont had a Marie Antoinette 
string of pearls valued at $100,000 and Mrs. Bradley Martin 
outdid them all, with a necklace of pearls worth $140,000, 
rubies valued at $200,000 and other choice pieces. 

Mrs. Palmer s Chicago friends always observed her new 
jewels when she returned from one of her trips to Paris. Her 
husband never disclosed that he was the purchaser but he in 
variably drew attention to the ornament. "Cis has a new 
pendant she is wearing tonight," he would say. Ernest Poole 
thought that he "loaded her with jewels" but, looking at his 
hostess, he felt the money well spent, and wrote: 

For Mrs. Palmer could hold her own no matter how many 
jewels she wore. She was the kind of woman who could look 
quite at home, in marvelous clothes, during a long course dinner 
with many wines, served by six men, on damask and plate under 
sparkling crystal in her house. And not only handsome but quick 
and smart. At big public meetings she could preside with Robert s 
Rules of Order right at the tips of her glittering fingers. 

Her old friend Mrs. Carter H. Harrison wrote that she had 
never known a woman to handle a heavy load of jewelry as 
gracefully as Mrs. Palmer, and a bedazzled grandson remem 
bered a vision at the top of the staircase on party nights "a 
slim and handsome woman sparkling with jewels and glowing 
with the hospitality she loved to dispense." 

The Palmers spent several months abroad in 1899. They 
planned a serious sight-seeing tour for their sons and Julia 
before Honore and Potter settled down to business. They 
had a stormy crossing but found London smug and luxurious 
on the eve of the Boer War. While the men went off to shop 
on Savile Row and Albion Street Bertha pulled strings to meet 
Lord Cromer, since they were heading for Cairo and he was 
the British statesman most closely associated with Egypt at 
that time. Henry White, American diplomat and close friend 
of John Hay, did his best for her but Lord Cromer had left for 
Khartoum and he was also in deep gloom over the death of his 



Conquest of Newport i$$ 

wife. White warned her that he would not be in the mood for 
social interchanges. But in general Mrs. Palmer was the diplo 
mat s delight, an effective courier for her country. 

They hurried through Paris to get Potter into the sun and 
soon Bertha was leading her handsome niece, who towered 
many inches above her, into the terrace restaurant of Shep- 
heard s Hotel. Kitchener had just taken Khartoum and there 
was much excitement in Cairo. British officers in assorted uni 
forms swarmed on the terrace and beauties in billowing lawns 
and muslins sat over cool drinks or hot tea while orchestras 
and military bands played Viennese waltzes and Sousa two- 
steps. The Palmers wandered through the markets observing 
the veiled women, the Bedouins, the French nurses, the camels, 
donkeys and general confusion. 

Honore had letters of introduction to a native newspaper 
man and an Egyptian sheik. The sheik invited them all to his 
daughter s wedding reception and they drove in a landau 
through narrow streets to the old part of the city, then went 
on foot into a courtyard where canopies were stretched over 
poles and native musicians played atonal music. Men in Ori 
ental uniforms and flowing robes mingled with frock-coated 
figures wearing f ezzes. Soon Mrs. Palmer was seated at a low 
table in a huge room hung with blue brocade while a solemn 
coterie of Egyptian men studied her with appraising eyes. 

She who had arranged so many banquets was baffled for a 
moment when a whole lamb was brought in, with servings 
of rice and corn but no knives or forks. The Egyptians dived 
in with their fingers but after some delay forks and plates were 
rounded up for the American guests. They were observed 
with close attention as they ate and some attempt was made 
to follow their example but without success. Mrs. Palmer went 
calmly on with her lamb and whipped out a pocket handker 
chief to use as a napkin. Egyptian women were not present at 
this feast since the occupants of the host s harem could not 
appear. 



ijo Silhouette in Diamonds 

Mrs. Palmer had said that she wished to see a real harem 
from the inside. This was not an idle fancy, but part of her 
serious study of the status of the Oriental woman. So she and 
Julia soon were led to a staircase. A door opened ahead of 
them and they were in the harem of the sheik. They were 
introduced to his oldest and first wife, one of a number of 
women of different age and stature who lounged about on 
cushions. All had big brown eyes and they gazed with blank 
concentration at their two American visitors. They wore Paris 
gowns without stays, smoked cigarettes and nibbled at Turkish 
delight. Since there were no interpreters Bertha could only 
gaze at them with bright attention but it was a scene she never 
forgot. 

The Palmers sailed up the Nile to the First Cataract in the 
steam yacht Nitocris loaned them by the Khedive. They 
viewed ruins and haunted bazaars. They watched magnificent 
sunsets and visited native villages. They rode on donkeys and 
the young people enjoyed themselves, but Potter s health grew 
steadily worse. At last Mrs. Palmer decided that they must 
turn back and head straight for Rome, where he could have 
medical treatment. They took a steamer to Brindisi, then hur 
ried north while the invalid grew weaker. A villa was rented 
in Rome and Potter was ordered to bed for a long rest. For 
once Mrs. Palmer slowed her pace so that she could spend 
nearly all her time with him. She encouraged Julia, Honore 
and young Potter to go sight-seeing, and to visit friends, but 
she stayed at the villa, reading American papers and books 
to her husband, and attending to his comfort. Only occasion 
ally did she go out for special events. 

The carnival season was at its height, and soon the old habit 
of hospitality prevailed, with guests flocking to the villa. In 
evitably Bertha became a hostess again in this new setting. 
Americans, Britons and Russians were quartered in palaces and 
villas and many of them gave fiestas. The Queen Mother, a 
"beautiful graceful woman with delightful manners," accord- 



Conquest of Newport 141 

ing to Julia, invited them to tea. There were luncheons, din 
ners, soirees and picnics. Mrs. Palmer chaperoned Julia at a 
court ball held at the Quirinal. They had tickets for a mass in 
the Sistine Chapel and soon Potter was well enough to face a 
private audience with Pope Leo XIII. Bertha found the head 
of the Catholic Church full of life and energy, although he 
was then touching ninety. He expressed great interest in the 
United States and Mrs. Palmer at once spoke of the Vatican 
exhibit at the Exposition. He asked many questions about the 
school system across the sea, addressing himself chiefly to her, 
since he did not speak English and she spoke perfect French. 
Afterward they toured the Vatican Gardens and were shep 
herded around by Merry Del Val, who was already well 
known to Mrs. Palmer. He had been on friendly terms with 
Fred and Ida in Vienna. 

These were enchanted days for Julia as she rode over the 
Campagna with Dr. Robert J. Nevin, pastor of the American 
Church in Rome, whom her parents had known since child 
hood. He had been a young soldier with General Grant and 
had later joined the church. He lived in a simple rectory but 
all manner of worldly people called on him just to hear him 
talk. He was one of the six best shots in the world, and had 
hunted and explored in Asia, Africa and America. He was 
handsome, a good horseman and he knew Rome extraordinarily 
well, having lived there for thirty years. He gave Julia lessons 
in its art and history, and reports soon spread that she would 
marry him. 

She and Mrs. Palmer dined with him at the Grand Hotel, 
one of the first really de luxe hotels in Europe, and all around 
them were women of great chic and reputation, such as Lady 
Randolph Churchill and the Duchess Grazioli, known for her 
elegance. But Mrs. Palmer stood out among them all and it 
was characteristic of her that a man of the cloth should be her 
dinner companion in this worldly paradise. But Julia had many 
beaux and although traveling Americans whispered that her 



242 Silhouette in Diamonds 

aunt was trying to promote a good international marriage for 
her Julia later said of Mrs. Palmer: "I found in her a true friend 
whose advice was easy to follow as it coincided with my own 
ideas of what was right. I was grateful that in spite of our 
small means I was not pushed into a brilliant match. " 

But it seemed a brilliant match to the public, at least from the 
worldly point of view, when Julia married Prince Michel 
Cantacuzene. He happened to be in Rome recuperating from a 
horse-show accident while she was there with her aunt. The 
young diplomats often accompanied Julia and her cousins 
on picnics and this was how they met. After that, he was her 
escort at various balls and parties, and he fell deeply in love 
with her. Mrs, Palmer raised no objections. He came from 
an old Rumanian line and was well established at the Russian 
court. He was young, handsome and liberal-minded. Although 
not particularly well off, he could scarcely be accused of for 
tune hunting, since Julia s father had little more than his army 



By this time Potter was feeling better and his physicians 
advised him to move on to the Riviera for the sea air. A week 
after they got to Cannes Julia was passing through the hotel 
lobby, her arms filled with bundles, when Prince Cantacuzene 
confronted her. Although they had made plans to keep in 
touch she was so surprised that she dropped her parcels. She 
had understood he was going to Paris but a telegram from the 
Grand Duke Kyril had brought him to Cannes. 

Two days later they were formally engaged. Mrs. Palmer 
telegraphed to Julia s parents. The Prince communicated with 
his family in Russia. Everyone was agreeable and Bertha at 
once began making plans for the wedding. She announced 
the engagement from Paris and delightedly began to order a 
trousseau for her niece, who seemed like her daughter. In June 
they sailed for the United States and the Prince went to Rus 
sia for a brief visit. Mrs. Palmer took the Astor villa, Beaulieu, 



Conquest of Newport 143 

at Newport and decided that this would be a suitable setting 
for Julia s wedding. Its gardens overhung Cliff Walk. The 
younger generation had gathered there for many fetes in the 
past. 

Letters of condemnation poured in about General Grant s 
granddaughter marrying a foreigner and Mrs. Grant was re 
ported to deplore a second international wedding in the family. 
Her daughter Nellie s marriage to Algernon Sartoris had 
foundered in England and by this time she and her children 
were back in Washington, living with Mrs. Grant. 

Fantastic stories appeared about Julia s trousseau and the 
Cantacuzene family jewels and estates, but the truth was some 
thing simpler than the public believed. However, Mrs. Palmer 
saw that nothing was lacking at the wedding. She was in her 
element making the arrangements. This was the first marriage 
in her immediate family since Ida s a quarter of a century 
earlier. She began to explore her own lineage. She visited 
Hockley, the ancestral Honore estate in Maryland, and found 
the house still standing. By this time Mrs. Palmer felt com 
pletely at home in Newport. 

The wedding was held late in September, 1899. There were 
two ceremonies, Episcopal and Russian Orthodox. A special 
dispensation had been obtained so that the Russian service 
could be conducted in a private home. An altar was installed 
in the drawing room, which was otherwise stripped to look 
like a church. Pictures of saints were hung, on the walls. No 
one was invited to the Russian service but members of the fam 
ily, the ushers, Bishop Henry Codman Potter and Dr. Nevin, 
who had come from Rome to assist in the Episcopal service. 

Honore Palmer held a jeweled crown copied after the im 
perial crowns of Russia over Julia s head. Mrs. Palmer held 
another crown over the Prince s head, while the priest intoned 
in Slavonic and the choir chanted. Both bride and groom held 
lighted tapers and exchanged gold and silver rings three times, 



144 Silhouette in Diamonds 

until the gold ring remained with the bride and the silver ring 
with the groom. Icons and incense were in use and the cere 
monies lasted until nearly midnight. 

The following day the Episcopal service was held in Trinity 
Episcopal Church, with Bishop Potter and Dr. Nevin officiat 
ing. The church was decorated with autumn flowers and a 
screen of feathery greens framed the altar. Since her father was 
in four battles during the week in which Julia was married, 
her brother, Ulysses S. Grant, III, then at West Point, gave 
her away. Their mother seemed tiny beside her two tall chil 
dren. 

Julia s gown was a simple one of white satin. Her tulle veil 
was severely plain and since jewels were forbidden for the 
Russian service she abode by this edict for both ceremonies. 
Prince Cantacuzene wore his regimental uniform of white 
cloth with red and silver trimmings, high black boots and 
gilded helmet ripped with the imperial eagle of Russia in silver. 
Luncheon was served under a great marquee at Beaulieu and 
the guests scattered over the lawns, salons and balconies. Henry 
H. Honore, Mrs. Palmer s father, had come on from Chicago 
and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant from Washington. Both wandered 
happily around the grounds, arm in arm, talking of the wed 
ding of Ida and Fred in Chicago a quarter of a century earlier. 
Neither could see very well by this time. Mr. Honore had 
cataracts and Mrs. Grant s vision was greatly impaired but they 
beamed happily at the bride and groom. By this time Mrs. 
Grant had decided that Julia was marrying well. 

The young pair left for Russia, where Julia was presented 
at court and embarked on a full life of her own. This season 
was the climax of Mrs. Palmer s social career in the United 
States although she continued to entertain on a lavish scale 
wherever she was. The city officials of Chicago called on her 
regularly for assistance when distinguished guests arrived. 
They knew that she would open the doors of her home and 



Conquest of Newport 14$ 

receive them in royal style. When President Cleveland and 
President McKinley visited Chicago, she was always asked by 
the city fathers to lend her knowing touch to the occasion. 
When Prince Sadanaru Fushimi came to the United States as 
representative of the Emperor of Japan Honore Palmer was 
his host at a memorable dinner at the Chicago Club. Again the 
Potter Palmers were hosts to the Comte de La Fayette and 
the Due de la Rochefoucauld. Only once was Mrs. Palmer 
missing from one of these official receptions. When Prince 
Henry of Prussia arrived she had one of her rare illnesses, but 
Honore, Potter and her brother Adrian functioned on her 
behalf. 

She always adapted her menu, decorations and entertain 
ment to the occasion when receiving guests in her own home. 
It might be Zorn or Elihu Root, Cardinal Gibbons or W. T. 
Stead, William Jennings Bryan or Chauncey Depew, a diplo 
mat or a suffragist, but she juggled them all with great dex 
terity and things were never dull, nor did her parries fall too 
heavily into the conventional social pattern. When entertain 
ing Baron and Baroness Hengelmuller of Austria-Hungary she 
had all her gold plate out for a formal dinner. Later in the 
evening she gave a reception in the French drawing room and 
a musicale in the art gallery. Both classical and popular music 
was provided Gounod, Schumann and Archie Crawford. The 
tempo changed at suppertime, when wooden tables were 
brought in with beer steins and bologna. The guests sang 
choruses and all through supper they had a vaudeville per 
formance with banjos playing, sleight of hand and skirt danc 
ing. Mrs. Palmer wore a gown of crimson and yellow satin 
that night, trimmed with layers of orange and black chiffon to 
suggest an evolving nasturtium. The Baroness, black-haired 
with deep blue eyes, smoked cigars and sparkled with dia 
monds. This was remembered as one of Mrs. Palmer s more 
original parties and it helped to soothe the Baron, who had 



146 Silhouette in Diamonds 

stamped out in high dudgeon when a hostess at Bar Harbor 
failed to seat him at her right. He had viewed this as an insult 
to his Emperor* 

But no one could be more formal than Mrs. Palmer when 
the occasion demanded it. On party nights her turreted castle 
blazed with light from its towers to the porte-cochere. Japanese 
lanterns threw tinted beams on arriving guests and swayed 
among the palm, banana, ginger and other tropical trees in 
the conservatory. The sound of mandolins and guitars drifted 
out to Lake Shore Drive and things seemed secure along the 
Gold Coast when Mrs. Potter Palmer was giving one of her 
parties. Her mother attended many, her dark hair now turned 
white, her distinguished face reflecting the pride she felt in 
her daughters. Bertha and Ida Honore of Louisville had indeed 
made their way in the world. Now Julia had picked up the 
tradition and would spread it farther afield. 



8 



> Art Collector 



If all else about Mrs. Potter Palmer were 
forgotten she would still be remembered as the person who 
introduced Impressionist art to the United States in a con 
vincing way. From the i88o s on she was a bold collector who 
displayed her paintings with pride and dared the traditionalists 
to spurn them. A tour of the gallery that her husband added 
to their mansion became one of the more esoteric rites of 
Chicago s social life at the turn of the century. 

Her collection covered three periodsthe Romantics, the 
Barbizon school and the Impressionists. But she stopped short 
of the Cubists and Abstractionists and never owned a Cezanne, 
Gauguin, Matisse or Picasso. By the time they flourished her 
husband was dead and she was overstocked with pictures. She 
had moved on to medieval furnishings and Oriental porcelains 
and jade. But she had definitely affected the prevailing taste in 
art. 

Daniel Catton Rich, director in turn of the Art Institute of 
Chicago and of the Worcester Art Museum, views her as a 
true pace setter in American art. He believes that if she had 
rounded up old masters, like Sir Joseph Duveen, she would 



14$ Silhouette in Diamonds 

have drawn her own following in that field. But Mrs. Palmer 
found it adventurous and chic to back the Impressionists. 
They made fashionable interior decoration as well as being 
experimental art. 

"In collecting you always have to have a leader and she was 
prescient enough to realize that they would catch on," Mr. 
Rich comments. "She made the Impressionists a style and helped 
the independents to move ahead. She was definitely creative 
and never a copyist in any field. She had an open mind and an 
alert eye for new trends and her interest in art was genuine. 
In collecting Impressionist, Chinese and Renaissance art she 
was a great eclectic in policy. She made few mistakes in her 
selections, from her Millets, Corots and Daubignys of the 
Barbizon school, to a Romantic like Delacroix, and on to her 
Impressionists." 

Only a few of her friends could accept at first her frieze of 
Monets but today the Art Institute of Chicago glories in her 
paintings by Sisley, Pissarro, Delacroix, Corot, Degas, Renoir 
and Monet that they acquired in 1922 through the terms of 
Mrs. Palmer s will. 

In 1893 she lent the French section of the Fine Arts Palace 
at the World s Columbian Exposition some of her best Barbizon 
and Impressionist paintings, thereby giving national stimulus 
to modern art. But it took some weathering for the critics 
and the public to accept the artists whose work seemed freak 
ish and mad to them when Paul Durand-Ruel in 1886 
brought over an exhibition of three hundred paintings valued 
at eighty thousand dollars. The critics condemned them, using 
the masters as yardsticks. So little was known about the in 
dividual artists that Monet and Manet were confused in the 
catalogue. Even Parisians had threatened to punch holes in the 
canvases with their umbrellas at an earlier showing by Durand- 
Ruel. But at least the Impressionists caused talk and their care 
free, flowing art and intense use of light had insidious appeal 

When Mrs. Palmer gave her approval to the new school of 



Art Collector 14$ 

art her friends took a second look. Most of them viewed its 
blurred pitch with suspicion. She was well aware that she was 
breaking ground and could spot their skepticism at a glance 
when she led them into her gallery and they stood face to 
face with the unfamiliar. However, when Mrs. Palmer backed 
some new development she was apt to command support, or 
at least to engage the attention of those around her. 

She made her finds sound provocative as she described the 
artists, their ways of living and their varied techniques. On 
her trips abroad she had corne to know a number of them. She 
and her husband had driven out to Barbizon to see the painters 
at work. She had climbed to their garrets in Montmartre and 
Rome. They had joined her for tea at the Grand Hotel. She 
had chatted with Georges Clemenceau, Edmond de Goncourt 
and the Comte de Montesquieu at Raffaelli s studio in Paris. 
She had visited Monet at Giverny and had seen for herself 
his golden haystacks and silvery poplars, the crimson and 
lemon lilies floating in his pond, the misty lilac light streaming 
through weeping willows, the bright marigold borders in his 
dreamlike garden, all of which contributed to the shimmer of 
his work. She accepted Monet s judgment that "Impressionism 
is only direct sensation" and agreed with his friend Clemen 
ceau that he was a "lyrical poet in paint." 

Cazin was well known to Mrs. Palmer and she had met 
Degas and Pissarro. What the Impressionists thought of their 
American patron is not recorded, but Whistler, on his only 
visit to Rome, recalled "a bit of an old ruin alongside of a rail 
way station where I saw Mrs. Potter Palmer." In time she 
came to know the major figures in the art world. Antoine 
Proust, Minister of the Beaux Arts in France, never forgot 
Mrs. Palmer after his dealings with her at the time of the 
Exposition. She left sharp memories, although he had not 
succumbed to modern art. 

The appearance of the Palmers at the salons in Paris or at 
Sotheby s in London always caused a stirring of interest. 



150 Silhouette in Diamonds 

Bertha became as familiar a figure at Durand-Ruel s in Paris as 
at Tiffany s and Worth s. She followed the trail of modern art 
wherever it led her and was an astute bargainer at home and 
abroad. It was noted by those who dealt with her that she 
always knew what she wanted. Men liked to deal with her. 
She was decisive and judicial to the point of coldness in her 
thinking, yet warmly feminine in her presence. 

When she called on Benjamin K. Smith, her favorite art 
dealer in Chicago, in a victoria drawn by handsome bays, and 
stepped out, trim, small-waisted and beautifully gowned, he 
prepared himself for a brisk exchange. Her softly cadenced 
voice and firm manner presaged the outcome. If the silver 
vegetable dishes were fifteen hundred dollars she would offer 
a thousand and stick to her bid. But her sense of humor came 
into play when she was bargaining. She would leave everyone 
in good spirits when she strolled out, unfurling her parasol as 
she stepped back into her carriage. 

Ida, who had perhaps the most intimate knowledge of her 
from childhood, believed that her sister s art collection was a 
true expression of her nature, and that she bought a picture, 
not to get the work of some particular artist or school, but 
because of its personal appeal for her. However, her choices 
suggest considerable concentration of interest and approach. 
After her early initiation she relied chiefly on her own and 
her husband s judgment. He was more of a factor in her art 
purchases than anyone outside of the immediate family ever 
knew, since he always wanted Cissie to get full credit for 
everything. But he was the inveterate buyer, with the same 
knowing approach to pictures as to other material possessions. 
However, his wife s taste prevailed. 

She was influenced in the beginning by Mary Cassatt, who 
was pushing the Impressionists for all she was worth and 
already had Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer in tow as an interested 
buyer. Miss Cassatt was a godsend to Durand-Ruel, and so was 
Sara T. Hallowell, another American who acted as agent and 



Art Collector zyz 

go-between in the art world. Mrs. Palmer s first purchase of 
modern art was On the Stage by Degas, Mary Cassatt s par 
ticular protege. This was a much admired twenty-two-inch 
pastel which she bought in 1889 for five hundred dollars. 
Three years later she picked up another Degas, Dancers Pre 
paring for the Ballet, and added two more in 1896. She was 
particularly fond of Degas s work. 

Although the Palmers had been buying art in a desultory 
way before 1890 their interest was greatly intensified when 
they went abroad immediately after Mrs. Palmer became 
chairman of the board of lady managers. With the Fair in 
mind they concentrated on the subject and a whole new world 
of art opened up before their eyes the world of the Impres 
sionists. They acquired the bulk of their collection in 1891 
and 1892. It was guaranteed to cause a sensation. All through 
life Mrs. Palmer sought the unique or superlative, and she 
never hesitated to make the plunge when she saw what she 
wanted. 

Her association with Miss Hallowell flowered at this time. 
Sara had charge of the art loans from France for the Fair, but 
the Palmers were already quite familiar with her capacities. 
They had used her as their personal agent and scout in making 
their own art purchases. Although Mrs. Palmer liked to en 
courage new talent, she always wanted to be sure that it really 
was talent before she embraced it, and here Miss Hallowell 
was of inestimable help. She was as knowing as anyone in the 
business and Bertha could always rely on her expert profes 
sional advice. Sara circulated among the Impressionists. She 
looked them up in their studios and visited them in their forest 
retreats. She staked them at times, appraised their work, 
cheered them in dark moments, established American links 
and worked smoothly with Durand-Ruel, who had pushed 
them with more faith than success. Mary Cassatt was the 
inspiration. Sara was the work horse. 

She scurried around Paris when she knew the Potter Palmers 



152 Silhouette in Diamonds 

were arriving, seeing what the dealers had to offer, haunting 
the studios. She kept in touch with Mrs, Palmer by letter, too, 
and in 1892, when she was scouting for their private collection 
as well as for the Fair, she wrote of running into Erwin Davis s 
apartment to look at his collection. He had already parted 
with a Degas that Mrs. Palmer admired but Sara was not going 
to let another elude her. Davis was seriously ill at the time but 
she had carte blanche to visit his apartment and look around. 
His housekeeper showed her some Chinese embroideries that 
had interested Mrs. Palmer. 

She soon found that it was easier to influence Mr. Palmer 
than his wife, and she could usually persuade him to do what 
she wished. Both were fair and considerate in their art deal 
ings, in Miss HallowelTs estimation. Once persuaded of the 
quality and distinction of a painting there was no trouble 
about price, but so obscure were the Impressionists when the 
Palmers did their early buying that they picked up paintings 
for next to nothing that today are worth fortunes. They paid 
much higher prices for their Millets and Daubignys than they 
did for the pictures of men who were still too controversial to 
draw big prices on the market. 

Palmer liked to prowl in the art shops when he did not go 
to the races, and he listened quietly and without expression to 
the bohemians who buttonholed him in the studios or at 
Bertha s teas. As the rich American in quest of pictures he 
was not underestimated but Madame Palmer was always the 
star performer. She conversed easily and fluently with the 
artists in their own language, and gave sympathetic attention 
to their whims and aspirations. It piqued her interest when 
Sara took her for a foray into Montmartre, its most character 
istic self at the turn of the century, with its cabarets, clowns 
and equestrians, its Moulin Rouge and at night the warm 
yellow light streaming from round gas globes. 

In Rome she hunted up H. C. Andersen, an unknown 
sculptor, and soon had Americans calling on him to buy his 



Art Collector 755 

work. She climbed up to his bare studio and bought a Floren 
tine bust. Henry James followed suit, purchasing the terra 
cotta Bevilacqua bust. Andersen was a friend of John Elliott, 
the son-in-law of Julia Ward Howe, who also lived in Rome 
at this time and welcomed Mrs. Palmer to his quarters. Elliott 
was already known to her. He had painted the Story of the 
Vintage in his Via Flaminia studio for her dining room ceiling 
on Lake Shore Drive. He also did an ivory miniature of Mrs. 
Palmer, which she liked. 

Elliott was in Chicago at the time of the Exposition and 
"some of the merchant princes made us welcome to the city 
they loved as men only love the things they create," he com 
mented. He was impressed by the fact that eight of these men, 
including Potter Palmer, had agreed "to put their hands in 
their pockets and pay down one million dollars each, to insure 
the success of the World s Fair and to ask nothing in return." 

In the winter of 1892 Miss Hallowell was rounding up 
animal pictures in Paris for Mrs. Palmer and was on the trail 
of two by Delacroix. Durand-Ruel was asking $25,000 for his 
Tiger Hunt. Another of a single tiger that she coveted was 
owned by the American Art Association at that time. "I know 
of nothing here which is fine enough for you to place in your 
great collection excepting the two works by Delacroix of 
which I speak," Sara wrote. Albert Spencer had a Monet that 
she wished Mrs. Palmer owned. It was "the very incarnation 
of refined color and poetic expression, not to be bought." 
Although her work for the Exposition went slowly, "I will 
not disappoint you or Mr. Palmer in showing you the finest 
collection of the works of this century ever brought together." 

Miss Hallowell finally got across the Atlantic with her 
paintings in March, 1893, but she had many troubles en route. 
Her responsibility was great, since she had entire charge of 
the loan collection for the Fair. Cholera broke out on the 
Aurania and when she reached the Grand Hotel in New York 
she dashed off a note to Potter Palmer, assuring him that 



i$4 Silhouette in Diamonds 

Sisley s Street at Moret was so carefully packed in the hold 
that it did not have to be fumigated. But she feared the Corots 
would be late reaching Chicago. She urged Mr. Palmer to have 
them sent direct in bond to the Exposition. She also asked him 
to use his good offices with his wife to persuade her to lend 
some of her best paintings to the Exposition. Sara wrote: 

Unless Mrs. Palmer rebels altogether at my persistence, I think 
our great loan collection must count upon you for (besides the 
Corots) your beautiful Puvis de Chavannes, Cazin s Judith and 
Elsinore, Raffaelli s Absinthe Drinkers and two smaller ones (a 
living artist is allowed but three examples and I find no Raff aellis 
equal to yours), and one of your works by Delacroix, unless in 
requesting the last, you find us altogether unreasonable. It is cruel 
to ask you, but I am lost to all sense of consideration at this time. 
Moreover you have the most fascinating collection in the country 
and it is a matter of such pride to me to have this fact recognized 
even by the showing of a few of your pictures. If you think you 
are going to consent and you know Mrs. Palmer whom I adore 
in all else has begged me not to ask I want your values for each 
separately, for the insurance bureau is now adjusting its matters 
for the loan collection. I can never sufficiently express the grati 
tude I feel for all of your generous thoughtful kindness shown me 
personally. . . . 

Both of the Palmers consented and some of their choicest 
pictures graced the Fair. The official French art show had 
only one Impressionist picture, but the loan exhibition in 
cluded pictures by Degas, Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, 
Sisley, Cazin, Corot, Raffaelli and Puvis de Chavannes. The 
donors were A. J. Cassatt, James S. Inglis, Potter Palmer, Albert 
Spencer and Frank Thompson. This exhibit turned out to be 
the sensation of the art showing at the Fair. It was much dis 
cussed and the story of the crazy pictures seen in Chicago was 
carried back to the farms, the small towns, villages and other 
cities. Nothing like them had been seen by so large a body of 
Americans up to that time. 



Art Collector /jj- 

After the Fair Mrs. Palmer hung her paintings in her private 
gallery, grouping them according to schools. She gave much 
time and thought to their arrangement. They were displayed 
in three tiers against a rose-red velvet background. Cazin s 
Judith was the largest picture in her gallery. Corot s Orpheus 
hung between two tall medieval pillars supported by urns. She 
was the most effective of all guides in drawing her guests at 
tention to the best points of her collection. When she led a 
parade of spectators through her well-stocked gallery she was 
consciously fostering a movement. As an eloquent advocate 
of the Impressionists she took time to justify her liking for 
certain paintings when she felt the frost was thick around her. 
She read closely on the subject, since Mrs. Palmer went in for 
specifics in her conversation. 

Her guests always lingered over Renoir s Dans le Cirque, 
the two little circus girls who never ceased to delight her. This 
was ^perhaps her favorite painting in the entire collection. She 
admired the luminous color and the vivacious attitude of the 
two poised figures and for a time this painting hung in her 
bedroom. She paid $1,750 for it when she bought it in 1892 
and it has since been valued at $200,000. She acquired eleven 
Renoirs altogether in that same year. They were quite gen 
erally admired, even by the traditionalists, and Martin A. 
Ryerson was of the opinion that Renoir s smooth-faced girls 
went well with old masters. The Wave and Reivers Luncheon 
caused talk in Chicago. 

Mrs. Palmer greatly loved her Monets and they made a 
brilliant but bewildering show for the uninitiated. His Argen- 
teuil-sur-Seine, which she bought for fifteen hundred dollars, 
was rated one of the gems of her collection. She bought seven 
Monets in 1891, twenty-two in 1892, one in 1903, one in 1904 
and another as late as 1910, making thirty-two in all. Monet 
was in Paris early in 1892 for a Renoir exhibition and met his 
American patron then. 

Mrs. Palmer also bought four Sisleys and six Pissarros in 



2 $6 Silhouette in Diamonds 

1892, her big buying year. Miss Hallowell was a Delacroix en 
thusiast and his painting Combat Between the Giaour and the 
Pasha, which was added to the Palmer collection, is rated one 
of his finest works. Her Millets, which included The Wood- 
chopper and The Little Shepherdess, were a choice group 
assembled while the Barbizon school was in high fashion, and 
the Impressionists were little more than a disturbing whisper 
on the breeze, so far as the art market was concerned. But 
Mrs. Palmer moved into the experimental field without hesita 
tion. 

Her art treasures ranged historically from Tanagra terra 
cottas to Monet s last study of a London dawn, which she 
called "the finest singing of this singularly lyric art." They 
were drawn from different epochs and nations but she had no 
old masters. The porcelains and ivories which she collected in 
her later years filled four cabinets in the large drawing room 
of her Lake Shore home. Her Chinese porcelains were of the 
rarest sort and she was among the first Americans to collect 
Tang figurines. She had particularly fine examples of the gray 
pottery horses of the Sung dynasty. Her jade was famous, but 
she soon saw that visitors did not linger over her Oriental col 
lection. They preferred to spend time on her paintings, so that 
after her husband s death she had them removed to her house 
in Paris where they were more appreciated. 

Like all collectors, Mrs. Palmer on several occasions 
blundered into fakes. She thought she had an original Corot 
in Girl with the Lute, but after her death it was found to 
be a copy and was withdrawn from a projected sale. Another 
of her Corots that came into question was the Woman with 
Water Jar, later bought by the Phillips Memorial Gallery in 
Washington. An identical painting, also attributed to Corot, 
was Gypsy Girl at the Fountain, in the George W. Elkins 
collection, Philadelphia. Both were subjected to technical 
study by infrared photography at the Fogg Museum. Shortly 
before her death in 1918 Mrs. Palmer s Corots were appraised 



Art Collector /j7 

variously at thirty, forty and fifty thousand dollars and their 
value today is proportionate. Although the early paintings of 
Corot, the great dissembler who could imitate the style of any 
painter, ancient or modern, have declined in value, some of his 
later figure pieces and his finest landscapes have weathered 
this depreciation. 

Mrs. Palmer s only investment in what she believed to be an 
old master turned out to be a copy. This was the Veronese she 
had stored in London at the outbreak of the First World War. 
After her death experts noted several small discrepancies in her 
listings. One of her favorite paintings was a rare figure piece 
by Corot which she called Reverie. Later it developed that 
Robaut, the leading Corot expert, had it listed as La Lecture 
Interrompue or Interrupted Reading, the title it bears today. 
Pissarro s "Place du Havre in Paris was incorrectly identified 
as the Place de la Republique in Rouen. 

Mrs. Palmer did not limit herself to European art. She col 
lected American paintings, too, and her husband was bidding 
for a George Inness in New York as far back as 1889. She had 
paintings by Mary Cassatt and Whistler, by F. Hopkinson 
Smith and Eastman Johnson, by George Hitchcock, George 
Fuller and Inness. Zorn s painting of her hung in her gallery 
after the Exposition, and she had some Gari Melchers portraits, 
including paintings of Honore and Potter. 

There were times when Mrs. Palmer s enthusiasm for art 
purchases brought mild protests from her husband. Young 
Potter, hearing one of these discussions, feared his parents 
were short of money. "If you need cash, I could sell my Eng 
lish bicycle," he said. The Palmers reassured their sensitive 
son. 

Mrs. Palmer made a habit of lending her prestige to openings 
and was a closely observed figure at art exhibitions. Her pres 
ence was regarded as an event in itself. Now and again she gave 
talks at the Institute. On these occasions she was a well-in 
formed and sometimes even a piquant speaker. The news- 



ij8 Silhouette in Diamonds 

papers seized gleefully on one of her chance remarks: "You 
women know how it is. The more you put on, sometimes, the 
worse you look, and the more you take off, the better you 
look." 

When Mrs. Palmer was caught in a malapropism which she 
rarely was she made good newspaper copy. Not that a merry 
quip in the press at her expense bothered her greatly. She was 
too sure of herself and her standing for that. But her stately 
fagade invited pinpricks. She always preferred that her hus 
band s name alone should appear on their art contributions to 
the Institute. The Palmer name is indissolubly associated with 
the Italian Reinaissance building, which combines schools, 
libraries and a museum and now houses a considerable part of 
the Palmer collection. Bertha s children and grandchildren 
have been identified with it in one way or another and her 
second son Potter and his wife Pauline became zealous col 
lectors on their own account. The younger Potter served as 
president of the Institute from 1925 to 1943. 

When her sons came of age Mrs. Palmer wrote quite 
frankly to Charles L. Hutchinson, saying she would like them 
to become members of the Institute and to show an interest in 
its development. "If you could put them on any of your com 
mittees, I should be very glad to have either of them be of 
service to you," she suggested. 

Later she again wrote to Hutchinson with a more specific 
request, urging that Honore be made a member of the board. 
In this letter she was quite explicit: 

I mention this to you quite frankly, for I feel sure that so old 
and valued a friend as you are, would help to realise my wish in 
case it becomes possible. We have always taken great interest in 
the Institute and would like to give evidence of it. 

Honor6 is very fond of art and would be very sympathetic with 
all of the aims and purposes of the Art Institute and you would, 
I am sure, find him a congenial and useful co-worker. Please give 
this a thought at a suitable moment. 



Art Collector /jp 

Mrs. Palmer had many professional interchanges with 
Hutchinson, a banker who had inherited a fortune from his 
wheat-trading father and was a brisk promoter. He and Ryer- 
son, a studious and traveled man who cultivated the arts in 
Chicago and was deeply committed to the Impressionists, 
worked with unity of purpose in building up the Institute. 
They frequently consulted the Palmers and relied on their 
judgment when they were abroad to do art scouting for them. 
They had loan exhibitions every autumn and Mrs. Palmer was 
always ready to round up material for these events. This went 
beyond paintings. She helped to build up the medieval textile 
collection of the Institute, among other things. When the 
Frederic Spitzer collection of antiques and medieval and 
Renaissance furnishings went on the market Mrs. Palmer was 
in Paris and Hutchinson wrote asking her to survey the situa 
tion for him. She replied at once that she would assemble in 
formation on prices and values. At that moment she was about 
to meet Sir Philip Owen and this led her to comment: "The 
South Kensington Museum has of course been of inestimable 
advantage to the artistic development of England and I trust 
our own Museum may one day be well enough equipped to 
pky a similar role in our part of the world." 

Actually, her family s taste for art was of long cultivation. 
It did not spring into being with her discovery of the Im 
pressionists. Her husband was one of the small group of men 
who worked both before and after the fire to foster interest in 
an art school and exhibitions of paintings. He was drawn into 
active participation when the Chicago Academy of Design 
was reorganized after the fire from a small art school which 
had worked with plaster casts. Palmer was appointed to the 
board in 1877 and after another reorganization the Institute 
itself was established in 1883. From the Romanesque building 
it occupied in the beginning it took possession in 1893 of the 
Italian Renaissance edifice of today. 

Both of the Palmers showed keen interest in all these de- 



160 Silhouette in Diamonds 

velopments and Potter was behind an exposition of the indus 
tries and art of the Middle West long before the Columbian 
Exposition was held. Chicago, enterprising and alert to all the 
current movements, was not slow to foster the arts. Hutchin- 
son and Ryerson had a much discussed showing of old masters 
in 1890. By that time Ryerson, Charles T. Yerkes, James Ells 
worth, Marshall Field, Potter Palmer, W. W. Kimball, Arthur 
Jerome Eddy, Frederick Clay Bartlett and Kate Buckingham 
were building up imposing collections. By degrees some 
moved gingerly toward modern art. The Henry Field collec 
tion included forty-one Barbizon masters and a few paintings 
by artists of the Paris Salon who were considered avant-garde. 
W. W. Kimball, whose wife was one of Bertha s closest 
friends, also was a convert. But Mrs. Palmer, Ryerson and 
Hutchinson were consistently independent and far-seeing con 
noisseurs, much ahead of their time. 

An extraordinary range of people viewed Mrs. Palmer s 
private art gallery, from factory girls to princes. Her paintings 
received a good many puzzled glances as well as polite com 
ment. The most articulate on the subject were the writers, 
artists and stage stars, who had no hesitation about expressing 
their views. The arts were usually represented in one way or 
another at her gatherings, invariably from the upper strata, 
and all the Palmers took a lively interest in music, books, the 
theater and the press. The bohemian set then beginning to 
flower in Chicago viewed the Impressionists as kin. They 
thought it amusing that the sacrosanct Mrs. Potter Palmer 
should be the leader in this movement. Art had become one 
avenue of approach to her aloof presence although her staff 
still intervened while she spread bounty from a distant cloud. 

The iSpo s added a sparkling chapter to Chicago s history. 
Seventy new periodicals were established. George Ade was 
contributing his Fables in Slang to the Chicago Record. 
Hamlin Garland was just getting under way as a writer. Finley 
Peter Dunne was on the editorial staff of the Times-Herald 



Art Collector 162 

and he had brought Mr. Dooley to life. Eugene Field, who 
occasionally gibed at Mrs. Palmer, died in 1895. Robert 
Herrick and William V. Moody both were teaching at the 
University of Chicago and were turning out books. Henry 
B. Fuller had written The Cliff-Dwellers and the story spread 
that Cecilia Ingles was none other than Mrs. Potter Palmer. 

Visiting authors and artists from Europe turned up regu 
larly at the Palmer House, as well as stage and opera stars. 
Bertha could look back on a long procession in the half -cen 
tury since she had moved from Louisville to Chicago. She had 
watched two generations of stars come and go, both European 
and American. She invariably took boxes for opera, the best 
concerts and plays, and her particular devotion after art was 
to music. She had heard Melba, Nordica, the De Reszke 
brothers, Paderewski, De Pachmann, Patti, Nilsson, Calve, Ole 
Bull, Josef Hofmann and many others play or sing in the 
Central Music Hall. From 1879 to 1889 this hall was Chicago s 
musical and cultural center. Singers from the Metropolitan 
Opera traveled west and in 1884 Walter Damrosch headed 
his father s company and added Wagner s Tmnhauser and 
Lohengrin to his repertoire. The Boston Symphony Orchestra 
was heard in 1887, an< ^ Strauss thrilled Chicago three years 
later with his Vienna Orchestra. 

Mrs. Palmer was always a good friend to Theodore Thomas 
and helped to support his orchestra. After the fire he came to 
play each year and during the Exposition he was a stand-by 
for the Woman s Building. He dined often at her home, a 
strong and fiery maestro who thought nothing of hurling a 
slipper or his wig at a wavering player. He encouraged Amer 
ican artists like Edward A. MacDowell and introduced works 
that had not yet been heard in New York. Mrs. Palmer liked 
his enterprise and spirit. "Chicago is the only city on the con 
tinent, next to New York, where there is sufficient musical 
culture to enable me to give a series of fifty consecutive con 
certs," he commented on one occasion. 



1 62 Silhouette in Diamonds 

Bertha and Ida, who still played the harp and piano, were 
among his most attentive listeners and the glitter of diamonds 
in the Palmer box was always a reassuring sight on concert 
nights. In the late i88o s Mrs. Palmer was seen often at the 
theater, attentively watching Edward H. Sothern, Robert 
Mantell, Richard Mansfield and other stars of the period. 
Henry Irving and Ellen Terry visited Chicago repeatedly after 
1884. Helen Modjeska played in Camille, Sarah Bernhardt in 
Adrienne Lecouvreur and Lillian Russell in La Tzigane. Bertha 
watched Lily Langtry act with Maurice Barrymore and Mrs. 
James Brown Potter with Kyrle Bellew. Minnie Maddern, 
later Mrs. Fiske, was one of the enchantments of the summer 
of 1882, and Ada Rehan, John Drew and Otis Skinner were 
appearing at the same time. Mrs. Patrick Campbell said that 
stage stars were received with warmth and enthusiasm in Chi 
cago. It was a good theater town. 

Bertha s memory went back even further to the days of 
Crosby s and McVicker s, where Aida was sung in 1874, the 
year of Honore s birth and Ida s marriage, and where Albani 
gave Chicago its earliest Lohengrin. Hooley s Theater opened 
in 1872 for plays, operettas and classical works and there were 
variety shows at the Adelphi after 1874. In these earlier 
days Chicago welcomed Charlotte Cushman, Edwin Booth, 
Lawrence Barrett and John McCullough. Although it would 
have been unthinkable to invite an actress to her home in the 
1870 $, by the 1890 $ Mrs. Palmer spiced up her most exclusive 
parties with a dash of the stage. 

Toward the turn of the century she was seeing the best of 
theater and opera on both sides of the Atlantic and was as well 
known at Covent Garden and the Paris Opera as she was in 
Chicago or at the Metropolitan. She was never strongly iden 
tified with New York, except for brief visits as she passed 
through on her way to Europe. Chicago was unmistakably 
her home. But she was always observed when she did arrive 
and she had friends everywhere. She went to the opera, the 



Art Collector 263 

theater, the horse show, ait exhibitions and the shops. Invita 
tions pursued her wherever she settled. In the early days she 
stayed at the Fifth Avenue Hotel, then at the old Waldorf, 
the Manhattan Hotel and ultimately at the St. Regis Hotel. 
She invariably visited Ida and Fred in New York and Mrs. 
Grant in Washington until the death of the General s widow 
in 1902. But by the turn of the century she had become a 
citizen of the world. 



9 



^> The Paris Exposition 



In 1900 Paris was in its most enchanted 
mood. The Exposition was in progress and visitors came from 
all parts of the world to view it. Mrs. Potter Palmer, appointed 
by President McKinley the only woman member of the Na 
tional Commission representing the United States, arrived to 
find the city sparkling with life. She and her husband immedi 
ately took a large house on the Rue Brignole near the Troca- 
dero, staffed it with servants and began to entertain on an 
elaborate scale. 

The American colony was at full strength but Mrs. Palmer 
could reach beyond it to the Faubourg Saint Germain because 
of her French ancestry and her perfect knowledge of the lan 
guage. She moved with ease in both worlds and found the 
cosmopolitan touch much to her liking. The Prince of Wales 
came over to Paris for visits. The King of Greece was at the 
Bristol Hotel J. P. Morgan, now assembling his great art col 
lection, drove about looking aloof and morose. An endless 
stream of carriages flowed along the Avenue des Acacias 
through the violet haze of late afternoon but the automobiles 
were increasing in number. There were morning drives in the 

164 



The Paris Exposition 165 

Bois, afternoon gatherings at the Petit Trianon. The fashion 
ables assembled for afternoon tea in their favorite haunts near 
the Rue Royale and the Boulevard Haussmann, or in the leafy 
resorts on the Bois. Many drove to the Pavilion Bleu of Saint- 
Cloud. They dined at Paillard s, the Ritz, the Pavilion d Arme- 
nonville or the reopened Cubat s near the Rond Pont. 

Meanwhile, great dinners and balls were given by the Amer 
ican and British hostesses who had taken quarters in Paris for 
the Exposition. As the one woman commissioner and a noted 
hostess in her own right Mrs. Palmer fulfilled her role with her 
customary magnificence and efficiency. But she could not 
function with quite the freedom she had enjoyed in Chicago, 
where her word was law and she had hordes of willing work 
ers. She did not have the office organization she had built up 
at that time and much of her work was done in the salons by 
persuasion and suggestion. The French officials were won by 
her eloquence and charm, although in the first instance they 
had protested the appointment of a woman commissioner. 
They had been nurtured on pictures of American Bloomerism 
and reedy spinsters in red shawls serving on committees and 
battling for women s rights. Here was a woman of the utmost 
elegance, one of Worth s choicest products, telling them in 
impeccable French what must and should be done. Mrs. Palmer 
kept the feminine angle well to the fore all summer and did it 
with style. Her specific task was to look after the interests of 
her fellow countrywomen in Paris and she made people realize, 
both on and off the Exposition grounds, that American women 
were present. 

She scored point after point in a quiet way. She got Jane 
Addams appointed to an important post over the opposition 
of the French directors. She staged a strategic campaign to get 
women on the award juries, an issue she had battled out in Chi 
cago at the time of the Columbian Exposition. And she func 
tioned on a regal scale as hostess. But she had not counted on 
subversion in her own ranks. Old feuds and enmities arose to 



1 66 Silhouette in Diamonds 

plague her. Two of her compatriots staged a powerful rebel 
lion against her. Mrs. John A. Logan, who had once been her 
friend and now was her enemy, tried to block her appointment 
in the first instance and, when that failed, she fired a gun 
point-blank into the Commission headquarters, charging that 
Mrs. Palmer had snubbed her and that she catered to the French 
at the expense of the American colony. 

More damaging to Mrs. Palmer was the wide-open campaign 
conducted by Mrs. Ferdinand W. Peck to curb her power. 
Mrs. Peck announced publicly that she would not let Bertha, 
an honorary commissioner, precede her at social functions con 
nected with the Exposition. Peck, an old colleague from the 
days of the Chicago Fair, was official head of the American 
Commission and he felt that his wife should have precedence 
at public functions. But it was clear to everyone that Mrs. 
Palmer was running away with the honors. The Pecks, too, 
had taken a fine house and were giving dinners for a semi 
official coterie. But they could not match the assemblage of 
world celebrities that Bertha gathered in. 

Peck was a zealous promoter of the arts in Chicago and he 
and Mrs. Palmer had many mutual interests, although they did 
not always see eye to eye. He was the son of a pioneer who 
had founded Chicago s fire department and was one of the 
builders of the city, like her own father and husband. Music 
was Peck s special interest and he was responsible for the 
Auditorium, which was planned originally to house opera and 
promote the arts. He maintained that there was no place in 
Chicago for a privileged class and he kept the number of boxes 
in the large hall to a minimum. He scorned the Metropolitan in 
New York as a building sacrificed almost entirely to boxes. 
He preferred to have the Chicago Auditorium represent "the 
future and not the corrupted past." 

Echoes of old debates divided the Pecks and Mrs. Palmer 
as the Paris Exposition opened. How had she maneuvered the 
appointment, her critics asked. Had she pulled strings through 



The Paris Exposition 767 

the White House? Was she up to her old tricks of playing the 
field with a lone hand? Mrs. Logan and several other women 
who had worked with her at the Columbian Exposition were 
now her most vocal critics. They felt that too much of the 
credit had gone to her, and that she had been high-handed 
in her dealings with her colleagues. They sought to curb her 
power at the Paris Exposition from the outset and keep 
her from running away with the show. They saw at once that 
her French inheritance paved the way for her in Paris and she 
made the most of this sympathetic response. 

Since the turn of the century native comment on Mrs. 
Palmer had become less reverential in tone. She had come 
under the blight in Middle Western eyes of foreign entangle 
ments and pretension. There was not the old, warm applause 
for every move she made, nor the proprietary feeling that she 
was theirs alone. The Easterners viewed her coldly, too. The 
New York Senators had opposed her appointment to the 
Commission. Why a woman and in particular a woman from 
Chicago? Rivalry between New York and Chicago entered 
into this attitude, however. 

Her critics thought her ambitious and scheming in her plans 
and the opposition to her was both veiled and out in the open. 
But the organizing touch was quite irresistible to Mrs. Palmer. 
She had everything on her side strategic skill, capacity, 
money, position, contacts the world around and considerable 
suavity in her approach, as well as a will of iron which she 
could impose on others in beautifully couched language. Mrs. 
Logan s efforts to block her career that summer as she sailed 
along, the brightest star in the French heavens, carne to noth 
ing. On her official trip to Paris in 1891 she had entrenched 
herself firmly, leaving a strong impression of her own person 
ality and competence. 

The papers and magazines in Paris and London played up 
the fact that she was of French ancestry, that she was rich, 
well dressed and was known as the Queen of Chicago. Claire de 



1 68 Silhouette in Diamonds 

Pratz, writing in La Fronde on May 10, 1900, found her a 
combination of "French elegance and much allure." This 
writer was also impressed by her practical approach to the 
Exposition and her frank concern that Frenchwomen "so 
marvelously dressed, so clever at their work, so well balanced" 
should not have a larger part in the administration of the 
Exposition and share in the awards. She favored more women s 
congresses, and executive power for the brainy women of 
France. At this time Mrs. Palmer was fifty-one and Mile, de 
Pratz found her looking remarkably young with her effective 
"aureole of gray hair." She likened her eyes to black velvet. 

A correspondent for Society, a London publication, re 
ported that she was a handsome woman, "still very young 
looking, and has had the high compliment paid to her of being 
told by a Royal personage that she was the best dressed woman 
in Paris, and that during Exhibition year." It was noted that 
she got in and out of her carriage with supple grace and moved 
most flexibly in ballrooms in spite of the iron corseting and 
heavy brocades of the period. All through life Mrs. Palmer 
managed to look regal, although she was below average height. 
But she was graceful rather than stiff in her bearing, and was 
apt to capture the attention of everyone present when she 
entered a room. Not only was she serene and poised, but her 
intelligence was never dormant. 

Another journalist collided with Mrs. Palmer on her way to 
attend the preview on the Place Vendome of the fashions 
to be worn at the Exposition. Both had to fight their way 
through the assemblage of automobiles with dust-colored satin 
linings jammed close together at the entrance. Everyone knew 
who MJ:S. Palmer was when she took a front-row seat in the 
scented salon and watched the parade go by. She was well 
known at such showings as a shrewd judge and lavish buyer. 
At this time she went for her own clothes to Worth, Paquin, 
Callot Soeurs and Doeuillet. 

It was a period of great picture hats loaded with artificial 



The Paris Exposition 26$ 

fruit and flowers, accompanying lacy gowns; of neat little 
toques worn with linen or tweed bolero costumes; of swirling 
skirts over a froufrou of lacy petticoats; of gossamer tulles 
sparkling with arabesques of diamante; of wide elastic belts 
studded with rhinestones and tucked parasols with lace inser 
tion. Everything sparkled and glittered. 

Mrs. Palmer made her own selections swiftly, notably a 
yellow velvet mantle with a gray sheen and chinchilla collar 
that her friends considered one of the most becoming garments 
with her gray hair that she ever owned. She saw much of Jean 
Worth while the Exposition was running. His father Charles, 
who had dressed her for years, had died in 1895. Th e younger 
Worth was unhappy at the start about the space allotted him. 
There were more exhibitors than there was room and he had 
one of the dark corners of the exhibition hall. But he installed 
a Louis XVI drawing room and made it the stage setting for a 
composite picture of British life, from court costume to maid s 
uniform. This show became a sensational success and was one 
of the chief drawing cards for women at the Exposition. 

Worth had his favorites among the women he dressed and 
Mrs. Potter Palmer was one of them. He liked those who 
showed off his gowns to good advantage and circulated widely. 
He considered Queen Alexandra "something of a dowd" and 
had made only one dress for her. The fact was that she pre 
ferred to buy in Britain. One of his great favorites was Lady 
de Grey, later the Marchioness of Ripon, who was more than 
six feet tall and remarkably graceful. Queen Margherita of 
Italy, Princess Orloff and Madame de Metternich, all good 
friends of Mrs. Palmer s, were among his customers at this 
time. The Metternichs had a splendid house in Paris near the 
Rue de la Varenne. Lily Langtry, whom Bertha did not count 
among her friends, launched fashions for Worth by reason of 
her fame and magnificent figure. He introduced his first jersey 
costume, a blue pleated skirt with tight-fitting bodice and red 
sash, through Mrs. Langtry, whose green eyes and alabaster 



Z7 o Silhouette in Diamonds 

skin always aroused comment when she arrived for a fitting. 
Paris was the showcase of the world at the moment. Its 
Exposition had all the dash and spirit of its Gallic setting. 
Great crowds poured into the Champs de Mars and joie de 
vivre was rampant. Mrs. Palmer went back and forth every 
day attending to official business, studying the crowds with 
interest, showing up at the social functions and giving elaborate 
entertainments of her own. Old friends from other countries 
who had been at the Columbian Exposition were again in view 
in Paris. Horace Porter, who had been a military aide to 
General Grant and was devoted to Fred and Ida, was at the 
Embassy at this time. He gave general receptions for visiting 
Americans once a week and smaller dinners and receptions for 
a limited circle. The Palmers were essential guests at these gath 
erings. Most of the members of the original American colony 
in Paris had apartments or hotels near the Arc de Triomphe 
and they engaged in a round of dances, dinners and soirees 
while the Exposition was on. The Thaws, who had been at 
Newport when Mrs. Palmer was there, had come from Pitts 
burgh and were entertaining lavishly. Mr. and Mrs. C. Oliver 
Iselin had arrived from New York. Mrs. John W. Mackay, 
who had won her way years earlier by sheer personality and 
warmth of heart, was still one of the most beloved hostesses 
on the scene. Mrs. Pierre Lorillard had a chateau near Ver 
sailles. 

The Baroness de Seilliere, stepdaughter of the New York 
banker, John O Brien, was a close friend of Mrs. Palmer s. She 
was the former Mrs. Livermore, now white-haired and stately, 
and she had a handsome hotel where she entertained Bertha 
and Mrs. William Astor together in the summer of 1900. They 
were an interesting study in contrasts Mrs. Palmer with her 
silvery coif, Mrs. Astor with her dense black pompadour, Mrs. 
Palmer dulcet-voiced and tactful, Mrs. Astor forceful and 
opinionative. They were on affable terms by this time. Nothing 



The Paris Exposition /7/ 

had occurred at Newport to upset the status quo. Each rec 
ognized the quality and influence of the other, although Mrs. 
Astor chose to be blandly unconscious of the Middle West. 
Her orbit was strictly social and she observed the political 
drive and ambition of such women as Mrs. Palmer with de 
tachment. She did not covet her role as lady commissioner to 
the Fair. Mrs. Astor might wield the scepter in Newport and 
New York but at the Paris Exposition Mrs. Palmer was wel 
come to the title of queen. 

Bertha had no difficulties with the international alliances. 
She was schooled in Debrett and many of the titled women she 
met were Americans already well known to her. The Duchesse 
de la Rochefoucauld was Mattie Mitchell, daughter of Senator 
John H. Mitchell. The Duchesse de Dino was Adele Sampson, 
who was first the wife of Frederic William Stevens, then after 
a sensational divorce married the Marquis de Talleyrand- 
Perigord, who, in turn, became the Due de Dino. The Mar 
quise de Choiseul came from a New York family. Madame 
Clemenceau was American. The Baroness de Brin was from 
New Orleans. The Countess de Pourtales and the Countess de 
Rohan Chabot both were American. The Baroness de la 
Grange was from Carrollton and the Baroness de Blanc was 
another compatriot. All visiting Americans discussed the fetes 
and cotillions given by Anna Gould, who had married Count 
Boni de Castellane and already had cause to regret it. 

Mrs. Palmer steered her way tactfully through the social 
shoals of the international set while Mrs. Logan laid traps for 
her. There was much gossip among the visiting Americans 
about this Chicago feud, but Bertha took no notice of petty 
attacks, never answered criticism, and did her work with her 
usual drive. Her days were tiring for she had many official 
duties. At times she and Potter sought relaxation at the art 
showings and they often went to Auteuil and Longchamps. 
Potter also appeared at the races by himself. His health had 



1^2 Silhouette in Diamonds 

improved but his doctors had ordered him to retire early and 
get considerable rest. He could not move about Paris with the 
indefatigability of his wife, who kept up a killing pace. 

When Queen Marie Henriette of Belgium invited them to 
visit her at Spa he hesitated about going with Cissie, but he 
rarely left her in the lurch on a really important occasion. The 
Queen, who was Austrian by birth, had promised Mrs. Palmer 
that she would attend the opening of the Austrian section of 
the Exposition. They had met before at Lacken and on the 
Channel Islands. 

The details of this visit, which throw as much light on Mrs. 
Palmer as on the Queen, are set forth in two of Bertha s letters 
to her mother from Belgium. "Dear Ma," she began, "I think 
you may like to hear from me when I am visiting Queens." 
She then proceeded to give Mrs. Honore, who had an ancestral 
interest in social matters, an hour-by-hour account of their 
stay at Spa. Here and there Bertha tossed in light shafts of 
humor, showing that she had a lively eye for the absurdities of 
pomp, although an able practitioner herself in this field. 

When they arrived from Brussels the Queen s gentleman- 
in-waiting met them. They drove to the royal villa and were 
ushered into the salon where the Queen and her daughter 
Princess Clementine were waiting to receive them. The Queen 
kissed Mrs. Palmer on both cheeks and "this time I had the 
presence of mind to get my veil up & not have her kiss the 
chenille wiry dots as she did the last time." She settled Potter 
in an armchair and led Bertha to the sofa to sit at her right 
hand. She was "full of kind phrases" about their having hon 
ored her by coming so far. She ordered tea for Mrs. Palmer 
and wine and whiskey for her husband. 

Bertha, calling him Mr. Palmer even in her letters to her 
mother, said that she gave them their choice of driving around 
Spa or of going to their rooms to rest "for Mr. Palmer s sake." 
They chose to rest and were escorted to a pleasant suite, sim 
ply furnished like the rest of the villa. But a footman in scarlet 



The Paris Exposition 173 

and gold preceded them every step of the way and opened 
doors for them. 

At dinner that night the conversation was mostly in English, 
the Queen discussing American literature, scenery and trees. 
Bertha, used to lengthy banquets on such occasions, was sur 
prised to find that dinner consisted of four courses only. They 
finished in half an hour and went on to a concert at the Casino, 
where Mrs. Palmer sat to the right of the Queen and Princess 
Clementine to her left. Potter had retired early. "You cannot 
fancy anything more simple & intimate & cordial than the 
reception she is giving me," wrote Bertha. 

Her next letter to her mother picked up the story. "We have 
returned to real life once more having come back from Spa 
this morning on the Queen s train," she began, then went on 
to give all the details of the rest of her stay at the villa. The 
morning after the Casino concert Bertha, up early as always, 
was standing in the courtyard when the Queen appeared bare 
headed and asked her to wait until she got a hat, then they 
would go for a walk together. She soon returned with a jacket, 
a black hat and a veil. Her three poodles were at her heels and 
they set off for a brisk walk together "in the most democratic 
manner." She stopped in a little shop and bought them sou 
venirs of their visit to Spa. Bertha s was a wooden picture 
frame with a view of Spa, and Mr. Palmer s was a little tray 
with flowers painted on it. 

You would have been amused by the way to see how much 
pleased Mr. Palmer was to go to visit the Queen. I accepted for 
him in fear & trembling thinking he might decline but no he 
was very pleased to go and enjoyed everything greatly tho he was 
feeling particularly weak and languid. 

They walked down the village street looking in shop win 
dows while the dogs ran in all directions. They stopped at the 
spring for a drink. After an hour s walk they returned for 
twelve o clock breakfast. Spa was recommended for rheuma- 



274 Silhouette in Diamonds 

tism, and Bertha told the Queen that since her husband suffered 
from it he should return for the cure. 

"Oh, come," said the Queen. "I should enjoy so much hav 
ing you and we would have such merry days together." 

After dejeuner, which was longer and had more courses 
than dinner, the Queen took them to the grounds of the vil 
lage to show them her horses. They went without hats and a 
groom brought carrots and brown bread. As they walked 
along the Queen called out the names of the horses and "each 
put his head out of his box stall and answered her." She had 
thirteen in all, both saddle and driving horses. She fed them 
and the groom brought out a new one and he stood on a tub 
for her. She trained them herself and was quite a sport and 
expert horsewoman, commented Mrs. Palmer. She seemed to 
be very proud of her accomplishments and particularly of the 
power she had over her horses. Then they drove away in 
phaetons, Mr. Palmer going with the Queen and Mrs. Palmer 
with Clementine. For three hours they ambled over hills and 
valleys, through forests, past villages with distant views of the 
mountains. The landscape reminded Mrs. Palmer of the White 
Mountains, except that the hills were not so high. Describing 
the Queen for her mother s benefit she wrote: 

The Queen is tall & commanding though thin & much aged. Yet 
her back is as straight & erect as a grenadier & she never leans 
back. She was gotten up in a sporty way for driving with black 
Alpine hat & trim black jacket & looked quite distinguished & fine. 
As her daughter did also. They are both devoted to trees & flowers 
and to simple country life and are cordial & kind beyond measure 
to every one, tho you never lose sight of the fact that the forms 
of etiquette are preserved and that beyond a certain point it would 
be dangerous to venture. Nevertheless the etiquette was very 
simple and really amounted to nothing. 

Everyone stood up and curtsied when the Queen entered a 
room and went through the same routine again when she made 
her exit. That was about all the formality required. No one 



The Paris Exposition 275 

waited for her to lead the conversation and she had her say 
on any subject introduced. Bertha assured her mother that it 
was all as intimate and cordial and friendly as with one s best 
friends, although she was careful about the details of getting 
in and out of the carriage and where she seated herself in 
relation to the Queen. 

Bertha thought her better dressed on this occasion than when 
she had taken her driving in Sark two years earlier. But she 
cared nothing about such matters: 

Mss. Worth and Paquin would not acknowledge her gowns and 
as for her bonnets & hair dressing well. She combs her hair 
straight back flat on her head & it is thin & she is thin, and does 
it up in a little knot behind & has a cap on top of her head when 
she hasn t a bonnet yet her carriage is such that she is a queenly 
distinguished looking woman & would be remarked anywhere. 

Bertha observed that her maid made her bonnets and caps 
but she did her own hair. They wore high gowns in the eve 
ning and after dinner a singer brought from Brussels for the 
occasion gave a concert. Mrs. Palmer asked the Queen to play 
on the harp, which she willingly did. "She did not play very 
well but she was evidently frightened & the harp is a bad in 
strument for a nervous person, as I have found." 

When she learned that Bertha also played the harp she urged 
her to practice regularly and promised that next time they 
would play duets. Her own routine was quite exacting. 
She rose at five in the morning, attended church at seven, 
and visited the little hospital back of the villa almost every 
day. She read a great deal and astonished Bertha with her 
knowledge of American literature and political affairs. She 
attended conscientiously to affairs of state and for recreation 
rode and drove. Usually she got to bed by half-past nine. 

The Queen and Mrs. Palmer had a great deal to talk about, 
for Bertha had the friendliest relations with Austria through 
Ida, Fred and her niece Julia. On the Palmers last morning at 
Spa she took Bertha across the courtyard to her own quarters 



276 Silhouette in Diamonds 

to show her her paintings. The courtyard reminded Mrs. 
Palmer of the Whitelaw Reid mansion on Madison Avenue in 
New York, built around a quadrangle fronted with a high 
iron railing. On their departure from Spa Mrs. Palmer suddenly 
found herself walking over a crimson carpet at the Queen s 
side, in advance of the bowing officials. Marie Henriette seemed 
"most superb in her presence & walk," followed at about five 
paces by her daughter and after that by the ladies and gentle 
men in waiting. "And then," Bertha finished with a dash of 
humor, "I realized how grand we had been when lifted up for 
a few minutes to that altitude. It had all seemed so natural and 
easy that we had not appreciated what we were going thro 5 
rill we trundled back to our places." 

These letters were typical of Mrs. Palmer s correspondence 
with her mother, although she did not always walk with 
queens. Mrs. Honore enjoyed all the social details and Bertha 
asked her to show the letters around to the other relatives, as 
she did not have time to write to each member of her family. 

Her visit to Spa and her success with the Queen of the 
Belgians was another feather in her cap at the Exposition. Al 
though charges of ostentation were made by her enemies none 
could criticize her work for the Fair. She made an authentic 
impression and by the time it closed her name was well known 
all over Europe. "The splendor and originality of her enter 
tainments have made a stir in Paris," Munsey s Magazine re 
ported in October, 1900. "Other women have won high social 
position, some have gained business success, and a few have 
won honors in politics. They have felt that they have accom 
plished much by achieving their ambition in one line of en 
deavor. Mrs. Palmer has distinguished herself in all three." 

On closing night silent crowds tramped along the muddy 
walks under a blaze of colored lights to get one last glimpse of 
the Chateau d Eau, the magical electric fountain. A gun 
boomed from the Eiffel Tower at eleven o clock. The figures 
1900, defined in starlike lights on top of the arch, faded slowly. 



The Paris Exposition 777 

Suddenly the fountain was dark and still. "On -ferme!" cried 
the guards. The Exposition was over. An era had ended, too. 

Mrs. Palmer went back to the United States on the U.S.S.S. 
St. Paul and en route wrote to Mrs. Mackayv telling her of 
her visit to Spa and other chitchat about their mutual friends. 

Mrs. Mackay had asked her to serve on a New York com 
mittee on her return but Bertha was doubtful that she could 
do so, since she would not be available at any time except dur 
ing December. "You know how little service I can be on the 
committee and I hate to be mere deadwood," she replied char 
acteristically. Mr. Palmer was "infinitely better," she added 
and they were heading for Newport. 

In the following April the Legion of Honor was bestowed 
on Mrs. Palmer for her work at the Exposition. Up to that 
time only two other women had received this decoration- 
Rosa Bonheur and Florence Nightingale. The distinction again 
roused a storm among her critics. An American banker s wife 
in Paris gave the New York Sunday World correspondent an 
interview that spotlighted the envy and animosity directed at 
Mrs. Palmer and made clear the strong social rivalry between 
the women of the East and this powerful figure from Chicago. 
She described Bertha as the most ambitious woman in America 
and expressed the opinion that her "neatly-gloved hand of steel 
may amalgamate and control the high life of our continent," 
just as Armour, Carnegie, Gates and other great combiners 
from the West held the industrial reins. 

Western contenders for social eminence had been held off 
by the New York dowagers, this observer conceded, but Chi 
cago, St. Louis and the Pacific coast had added some impres 
sive figures to the new aristocracy and Mrs. Palmer was the 
one best qualified to effect a "great vitalizing social combine." 
Moreover, she was quite conscious of being far in the lead, 
said the banker s wife: 

I have long realized that since she tasted the sweets of real social 
prominence . . . she would never be content till she had reached 



/7# Silhouette in Diamonds 

the top notch of eminence. I doubt if even such unchallenged 
position as that enjoyed today by Mrs. Astor would satisfy Mrs. 
Palmer, Her dream is to be known as the final arbiter of all that 
is select on the American continent. She believes she is equipped 
for leadership by wealth, breeding and tact. . . . Some irrecon 
cilable elements will have to be forced and others brought into 
line by cajolery or sheer bullying. She is ready to do a good deal 
of all that 

But Mrs. Palmer was concerned with other matters. The 
social scramble was only one facet of her life. She had work 
to do. A thousand duties lay ahead of her. Julia L. Cole wanted 
an article for the Marshall Field sewing school in Chicago. "I 
desire your interest in forty dear, sweet-faced girls, who as 
semble in these rooms two nights a week for study after work 
ing at tasks, and behind counters all day. I need the aid of all 
good women in this work," she wrote. 

William Gardner Hale reminded Mrs. Palmer that two years 
earlier, when he went to Rome as director of the American 
School of Classical Studies, he had asked her to become a 
member of the managing committee and she had not given 
him a definite answer. He now wished to visit her in Newport 
and to enlist her support. "If the interests of the school do 
not seem to you important, I can hardly hope that they will to 
others in Chicago," Hale wrote. "And without the cooperation 
of Chicago, I do not see how the school can succeed." 

Mrs. Palmer was always receptive to schemes involving edu 
cation or the arts, but she was averse to lending her name to 
committees on an empty basis. She believed that a patron 
should work for a cause. Thus, although she was besieged by 
requests to sponsor movements of all kinds, she made her final 
choices with care. Her interest now was focused on a new 
goal. She had come back from Paris determined that Honore 
should enter the political field and she undertook the manage 
ment of his political campaign when he ran for alderman of 
the Twenty-first Ward Her oldest son at this time was 



The Paris Exposition i*]$ 

twenty-seven. He had attended St. Mark s School and Harvard 
and had spent his summers abroad with his parents. He was a 
serious youth in spite of his mania for racing cars and speed, 
but in later years he never made any secret of the fact that 
he would not have thought of entering politics but for the 
prompting of his mother. She had always taught her sons that 
wealth meant social responsibility of the most practical kind 
and if her husband could not serve abroad in the diplomatic 
service her son might help to clean up the civic mess in 
Chicago. 

None of his friends was convinced that Honore wished to 
be a politician, but he had a sincere, thoroughgoing nature like 
his father and he entered into the campaign with spirit. He was 
unaffected and candid by temperament. There was none of the 
show-off about Honore and he performed his part with unerr 
ing zeal When his political opponent, Fletcher Dobyns, cir 
culated the report as a joke that Honore had joined the waiters 
union, he dashed down to the Palmer House to make the story 
come true. He donned a white uniform belonging to a member 
of his father s staff and was photographed carrying a tray. 
Then he announced that he was proud to wear the uniform of 
so honorable a profession. Dobyns 5 little joke had boomeranged. 
The Democrats of Chicago applauded Honore s enterprise. 

His headquarters were on Clark Street and his mother called 
on all her old friends to help him. She sent a typical note to 
Judge Lambert Tree, who had figured so often on her Charity 
Ball lists: "You are such a favorite in the party and your pres 
ence would be such an encouragement and compliment that I 
sincerely trust that you can gratify Honore, and his parents, 
by being with him at his little informal house warming." 

Knowing his mother well, Honore was not at all discon 
certed by what went on at the Palmer mansion during the 
campaign. The most discussed function was a sumptuous re 
ception she gave for the ward workers who were supporting 
him. Wives, mothers and sweethearts romped happily through 



i8o Silhouette in Diamonds 

Palmer Castle, looking with equal curiosity at Mrs. Palmer s 
Monets and Mrs. Palmer s diamonds. Some of the zealous voters 
who joined this parade were more familiar with the saloons 
and lodging houses of the Twenty-first Ward than they were 
with Renoirs or Coromandel screens, but Mrs. Palmer wore her 
smartest Paris gown, her favorite jewels and roamed among 
them shaking hands, making apt comments and thanking them 
personally for what they had done for Honore. The house was 
banked with flowers. A concert was given with hearty songs 
in which all could join. The guests partook of the kind of 
refreshments that she served to visiting princes and diplomats. 
All left in a happy glow, to talk for some time to come of their 
visit to Palmer Castle. Of all the assorted gatherings in her 
home, none equaled this one for novelty and enthusiasm. 

<c We read of the social life of our hostess in Paris, London 
and in the other great European cities, where she is surrounded 
with luxury in palaces," commented Alderman Minwegen, 
who headed the Tuscarora Club, a power on the North Side. 
"But I think right here in Chicago she has a tolerable kind of 
a home herself." 

Between them, Mrs. Palmer and Honore proved to be good 
vote-getters. Honore went through the round of speechmaking 
and hand shaking with unwavering spirit. His mother often 
appeared at his meetings and wives asked their husbands when 
they returned home at night if Mrs. Potter Palmer had been 
there, and if she had worn her diamonds. Honore danced at 
Turner Hall parties and gave interviews about the state of 
Chicago, if not the state of the nation. Like his mother, he 
spoke French well, and he had studied enough German at 
Harvard to enable him to speak to the German voters in their 
own language. He made a hasty study of Italian so as to be 
able to say a few sentences to the Italians in their native tongue. 
All thought him a regular fellow, no more given to high-hat 
ting the underdog than his famous mother. 

He was up at four o clock on election morning and by six 



The Paris Exposition 181 

the entire Palmer family were breakfasting together in the 
carved oak dining room. He canvassed the ward on foot, 
hurrying from one booth to another and greeting the voters 
heartily. The family awaited the day s result in their home and 
for once Mrs. Palmer showed agitation as the returns came in 
by messenger and telephone. Honore won by a majority of 
1,508 votes. He served two terms and showed a touch of the 
parental reforming spirit. One of his first acts as alderman was 
to push through an ordinance requiring numbers on all auto 
mobiles. His brother Potter was promptly picked up for violat 
ing the new rule. The regulation was highly offensive to the 
members of the Chicago Automobile Club. Honore happened 
to be its president. He was going back on his own class, his 
fellow motorists insisted, as they kicked him out of office. 
Honore argued that the new ordinance was essential for the 
common good, with so many automobiles on the roadways. 

But he did not cease to be a speed demon on his own ac 
count. His ardor for racing was considerable. With his first 
car, a French model bought abroad for eight thousand dollars, 
he set out on a trail-blazing run from Chicago to Boston in 
June, 1902, taking with him Paul Pickard, whose car was 
known on Lake Shore Drive as "The Yellow Devil." 

All through his two terms of office Honore backed progres 
sive measures for the public welfare. Like his mother, he 
never expressed himself until he had studied a question care 
fully; then he stuck to his convictions against any odds. He 
brought a certain freshness and objectivity to the Council 
Chamber where so many cynical politicians had sat as Chicago 
roared its way into big-city politics from the comparative sim 
plicity that his parents both could remember. 

But the pioneer of 1852 was failing badly now and Bertha 
was deeply worried about her husband s health. He no longer 
wished to go anywhere, or even to leave the house. Sadly she 
told Mrs. Carter Harrison one day: "Mr. Palmer has decided 
that California, Florida, Cuba, in fact no spot in the world 



182 Silhouette in Diamonds 

seems as comfortable and warm as a dressing room on the 
sunny side of our house. He has been ensconced there for the 
past month and none of us, singly or combined, has been able 
to persuade him to move. He declares he will spend the winter 
there, and, of course, I shan t leave him." 

Mrs. Harrison expressed the view that the disparity in the 
ages of the Palmers never affected their home life and that 
while Bertha was "pre-eminently his greatest admiration" she 
in turn never faltered in her devotion to him. It was always 
understood that she might appear at any time at a function 
without her husband and now that his health was so precarious 
no one expected him to show up for entertainments of any 
sort. But he kept up his civic interest to the end and in 1 899, 
three years before his death, he was pushing a measure which 
resembled his early determination to widen State Street. His 
aim was to have Lake Shore Drive extended a hundred feet 
toward the lake, in order to enlarge the park. The effect of 
the water breaking over the sea wall where it then stood was 
serious during heavy storms, he pointed out. 

But his own days were numbered. He died unexpectedly 
from edema of the lungs in the late afternoon of May 4, 1902, 
at his home on the Drive. He had been ill with grippe but his 
condition was not considered alarming until three hours before 
the end. His wife and two sons were at his bedside when he 
died. He lay in state in the gallery where so many great parties 
had been held. The public streamed past as though he had been 
mayor or a public official. Among hundreds of business and 
social friends were many Negroes, old and young, who had 
worked for Potter Palmer. Tears streamed down the faces of 
some and they all agreed that he had treated them well. The 
Palmers had always been liked by their servants and had at 
tended their weddings and funerals. Bridget (Bridey) Mullar- 
key Lynn, among others, liked to recall that when she was 
married in Holy Name Cathedral she had Mrs. Potter Palmer, 
Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant and Mrs, Fred Grant as guests. She had 



The Paris Exposition 183 

been second maid to Mrs. Palmer and was a favorite of the 
household. 

Mr. Palmer left all of his fortune to his wife without any 
strings. She and her brother Adrian were made trustees of the 
eight-million-dollar estate, which consisted largely of real 
estate. It was divided into two parts. The first, which was to 
be administered by the trustees, was designed to give Honore 
and Potter such funds from time to time as Mrs. Palmer deemed 
advisable. In short, she was to have control of their pocket- 
books. 

In drawing up this will the lawyer pointed out that Mrs. 
Palmer might marry again. 

"If she does, he ll need the money, 1 Potter commented real 
istically. 

When Marshall Field heard that his old colleague had left 
everything to his wife, he frigidly delivered one of his more 
memorable phrases: "A million dollars is enough for any 



woman." 



Potter Palmer was seventy-six when he died. Bertha was 
then fifty-three. Onlookers noticed how pale and beautiful 
she looked in her widow s weeds as she drove away from the 
cemetery. But the death of her husband was one of the crucial 
points of her life and for a time she was uncertain about the 
course she should follow. Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant died in Wash 
ington just before Christmas that year. Old links were going. 
Her mother was failing but Mr. Honore was as brisk and 
energetic as ever. Ida and Fred, who was on leave from the 
Philippines, had recently gone to Russia to visit Julia and had 
met the Cantacuzene family at Bouromka for the first time. 

There were great fetes at the Czar s court to which she was 
invited but Julia was not so tied to her new environment that 
she could not join her aunt in the summer of 1903. Mrs. 
Palmer had gone abroad for the wedding of Honore and Grace 
Greenway Brown, a match that she thoroughly approved. 
The bride belonged to a prominent Baltimore family and she 



184 Silhouette in Diamonds 

fitted smoothly into the Palmer orbit. She was talented, rich 
in her own right, and good-looking. She and Honore met at 
the Fete of All Nations ball held in Chicago while she was 
visiting her sisters, Mrs. Walter Keith and Mrs. Stanley Field. 
They were married in England that September with Mrs. 
Palmer in half-mourning at the wedding. Julia, who had come 
on for the occasion, now set off on a motor tour with her aunt 
through the south of France and northern Italy. Bertha s hob 
bies, if she might be said to have had any, were motoring, 
collecting antiques and the study of history. She always felt 
at home in France and Honore recalled in later years that 
his mother s favorite and most consistent reading was the 
Memoires of Saint-Simon. In the summer before Potter Palm 
er s death the Cantacuzenes had toured Normandy and 
Belgium with the Palmers, and the Prince and Potter Palmer 
had come to know and like each other. But on the 1903 tour 
Julia was dismayed when her aunt came down with typhoid 
fever on her return to Paris. All the members of her family 
were astonished to hear that she was ill, since her radiant health 
was accepted as a matter of course. Julia stayed on with her 
until Christmas and as she got better Honore and his wife re 
turned to Chicago and went into residence at the Palmer house 
on Lake Shore Drive until their new home at 187 Lincoln 
Park Boulevard was completed. 

Bertha, who disliked invalidism intensely, accepted her fate 
with philosophical calm and received many visitors as she con 
valesced. She avoided the spas as much as possible. The soft, 
relaxing atmosphere and the congregation of people concen 
trating on their physical ills did not appeal to her. She preferred 
the seashore, a high healthy wind and wide-open spaces. But 
she visited Carlsbad and Marienbad upon occasion. Honore 
was an outdoor enthusiast, who liked to hunt and fish and race 
his cars and horses. His bride was a horse lover and they soon 
set up racing stables near Paris. 

Mrs. Palmer was still in the French capital and Honore was 



The Paris Exposition z#j 

back in Chicago when word reached her of the Iroquois 
Theater fire in which nearly six hundred lives were lost, or 
nearly twice as many as in the Great Fire of 1870. Eddie Foy 
was playing in Mr. Bluebeard when the flimsy scenery was 
touched off by a spark from the footlights. "For God s sake 
don t stop play on/ he begged the orchestra as he stood on 
the stage urging the audience to leave in an orderly manner. 
But someone had opened a door at the back. The flames shot 
out over the orchestra pit and chaos followed. Iron bars 
blocked the stairways. Most of the doors were locked. Soon 
the dead lay in heaps in the demolished theater. It was Christ 
mas week and all Chicago sorrowed as identifications were 
made in morgues and hospitals. 

This disaster had worldwide repercussions and focused at 
tention once again on Chicago. It was depressing to Mrs. 
Palmer, and it brought up many memories of the Great Fire 
she had gone through as a bride. She did not go home that 
winter. There would be no Charity Ball or anything but 
mourning in the city. Soon afterward more stringent fire laws 
were passed, in Chicago and in many other communities. 

Mrs. Palmer lived very quietly at this time, but gradually 
the period of official mourning ended and she was drawn back 
into the social current. She changed from black to lavender 
and gray, and finally emerged altogether from mourning. She 
resumed her trips back and forth across the Atlantic, although 
she spent more time in Europe and less in the United States as 
the years went on. Claridge s was her stopping place in London 
until she took Hampden House, the property of the Duke of 
Abercorn. She stayed at the Bristol in Paris until she found an 
ideal background for herself at 6 Rue Fabert. It was in a differ 
ent key from any other house she had owned. The decor was 
essentially French and bore small resemblance to the curious 
melange of the mansion on Lake Shore Drive. Turkish and 
Moorish effects, mother-of-pearl inlay and Oriental touches 
were on their way out. The Victorian influence was waning, 



286 Silhouette in Diamonds 

too. Queen Victoria was dead and the Prince of Wales, who 
was crowned in 1902, was already changing the tempo of life 

in Britain. 

Mrs. Palmer abandoned all lugubrious effects and created a 
sunny, airy setting for herself with Louis XVI furniture and 
a Beauvais set that became quite famous among her friends. 
Gobelin tapestries hung in the main salon and behind it were 
two charming rooms opening on a garden. She brought her 
favorite paintings from the United States and decided that the 
Impressionists looked particularly well against her white and 
gold background. She hung them so that they caught the light 
and sunshine, and visitors were struck by the artistic flower 
arrangements on low eighteenth-century tables that greeted 
them as they walked in. Her little circus girls hung in her bed 
room. Raffaelli s misty Parisian effects, Cazin s Norman land 
scapes, the brilliance of a Diaz scene and Corot s haystack 
infused with sun were much admired by guests who were 
beginning to accept modern art. Cazin and Raffaelli were 
among her visitors, too. Her house became a show place and 
a haunt for cosmopolitan society. 

The habit of collecting continued although she ceased to buy 
pictures after her husband s death. She concentrated for the 
time being on faience, statuary and medieval wood carvings 
and was in and out of Raoul Heilbronner s in Paris along with 
Mrs. Jack Gardner of Boston, John Wanamaker, Baron Henri 
de Rothschild, W. K. Vanderbilt, Clarence H. Mackay, Pierre 
Lebaudy and Stanford White, who before long would be mur 
dered by another art collector, Harry K. Thaw. 

Traditional art bound for the United States was now being 
bought on a Homeric scale by J. P. Morgan, Henry E. Hunt- 
ington, W. K. Vanderbilt, Henry C. Frick, Harry Payne 
Whitney, Andrew Mellon and Joseph Duveen. But modern 
art was beginning to get serious consideration. Mrs. H. O. 
Havemeyer, helped by Mary Cassatt, was buying paintings by 
Renoir, Manet and Monet, as well as Goyas and El Grecos. 



The Paris Exposition 187 

The Salon d Automne, held for the first time in 1903, showed 
paintings by Monet, Sisley and Manet, all of whom had been 
turned down earlier by the Luxembourg Museum. 

In London Mrs. Palmer took up Mrs. John W. Mackay s 
fad for collecting silver tankards. Her prize purchase was a 
cylindrical mug of the Charles II period, dated 1677. On the 
same day she picked up a rare set of old silver goblets which 
she used in Hampden House. She and the Duchess of Rox 
burgh, the former May Goelet of New York, bought Chelsea 
statuettes and milk glass with equal zeal. Bertha was partic 
ularly proud of a pair of Charles Morland s animal pictures 
which she hung in her London drawing room. She had 150 
antique lanterns of one kind and another and she shared in 
the current craze for celadon bowls, Faberge boxes, little 
jeweled clocks and trinkets mounted in enamel or ormolu. 

A passer-by at the Palmer mansion in Chicago in the spring 
of 1905 sadly observed that it was dark, silent and closed. It 
had always been the custom to keep the picture gallery brightly 
lighted and music was so often wafted out to the Drive that 
there seemed to be a social gathering every night. But at the 
moment Mrs. Palmer was at Claridge s in London and her un- 
tenanted castle looked grim and dark. The grounds still were 
cared for and Adrian Honore and young Potter Palmer lived 
in it intermittently, but the life seemed to have gone out of it. 
Elite commented: 

The friends of Mrs. Palmer s married life are here, but quite the 
same may be said of them as of her family. Some of them are ill, 
and some have been growing old, while she has been growing 
young. Some have lost their fortunes and none have developed 
along lines sympathetic with Mrs. Palmer s tastes. Mrs. Palmer 
goes along on her shining way. She is absolutely unaccompanied 
in Chicago. Mrs. Palmer was married when very young . . . and 
now is having out some of the youth denied her then. 

Bertha had the knack of making friends easily and of en 
listing lasting devotion but she had few intimates. Among those 



iSS Silhouette in Diamonds 

who were closest to her in Chicago were Mrs. Franklin Mac- 
Veagh, Mrs. W. W. Kimball, Mrs. Henry Shepard, Mrs. 
Charles Henrotin, Mrs. A. L. Chetlain and Mrs. T. W. 
Harvey. Most of the prominent men who had threaded their 
way in and out of her life had disappeared from the scene. 
Pullman died in 1897, Philip D. Armour in 1901, her own 
husband in 1902, Charles T. Yerkes in 1905, and now disaster 
seemed to have settled on the house of Marshall Field. 

His only son was killed by gunshot wound under mysteri 
ous circumstances in 1905 and some months later Field died of 
pneumonia. He had recently married Mrs. Arthur J. Caton, 
whom he had worshiped for many years. When her husband 
died the way was clear for this long-delayed and much- 
discussed union. Mrs. Cyrus H. McCormick s twelve-year-old 
daughter Elizabeth died from appendicitis in 1905, the year 
in which Mrs. Palmer s first grandchild was born to Grace and 
Honore Palmer. He was baptized Potter D Orsay and in time 
the papers referred to him as the ten-million-dollar baby. 

Bertha was back in the United States that winter, running 
the Charity Ball and urging all her old friends to chip in for 
the benefit of indigent soldiers and sailors, who were to profit 
by the function that year. Caruso was making his first appear 
ance in Chicago, singing with Madam Sembrich. Richard 
Mansfield was playing in Beau ErummelL Clyde Fitch was 
drawing crowds to The Toast of the Town. Viola Allen was 
appearing in Shakespearian plays. Madam Gadski was delight 
ing the music lovers of the Middle West and Isadora Duncan 
had brought a fresh and pagan touch to the dance. Mrs. Palm 
er s old friend Theodore Thomas had died in 1905. A new 
philanthropist now loomed into view to take the place of some 
of those who had gone. By this time Julius Rosenwald was 
building up a vast fortune through Sears, Roebuck & Company. 
And the Marshall Field benefactions continued on a munificent 
scale through the founder s descendants. 

Cable cars had disappeared from the streets of Chicago and 



The Paris Exposition 18$ 

elevated trains ran overhead. The winds blew off the lake with 
their old fierceness, but tall buildings now made canyons 
through which they roared. At home or abroad Mrs. Palmer 
kept in close touch with all that went on in the Windy City. 
She read the local papers, met her compatriots in London and 
Paris, sustained a constant flow of letters with her family and 
friends in the Middle West, and never lost her interest in 
local or national politics. By this time she had become a 
legendary figure. The phrase "Mrs. Potter Palmer of Chicago" 
carried its own implications after the turn of the century. It 
suggested the superlative hostess, the jeweled queen, the col 
lector of modern art, the champion of women s rights, the 
philanthropist, the effective campaigner who could wage a 
tough fight and come out of it unscarred and without a grudge. 
To some she seemed a pretentious snob, but all were agreed 
that Chicago had contributed a fabulous personality to the 
social scene. None followed her career with more pride than 
her ambitious mother, who watched Bertha s progress with the 
closest attention until she died in 1906, leaving a great gap 
in the lives of her two daughters. Mrs. Honore had been failing 
for years, but her husband had yet another decade to live. 



10 



^ Edwardian England 



King Edward VII greeted Mrs. Potter 
Palmer as she strolled about on the lawn at Ascot on a June 
day in 1907. "You are coming on/ he told her heartily. "I 
never saw so many Americans in all my life. We outdo New 
York surely." 

The King admired American women and welcomed them 
at court but some of the peeresses viewed them coolly. How 
ever, Queen Alexandra bowed publicly to Mrs. Palmer on this 
occasion, thus informing onlookers that she was in favor. 
Bertha went on her way serenely, chatting with Lord Rose- 
berry, the Duke of Richmond, Lord and Lady Churchill, 
August Belmont, and Miss Jean Reid, the daughter of White- 
law Reid, who later became Lady Ward. Although Mrs. 
Marshall Field, II, was at Ascot with her sister-in-law, Mrs. 
David Beatty, who had taken a house nearby for race week, 
she took no part in the festivities as she was in mourning. Her 
son, Marshall Field, III, was attending Eton at this time. 

The Kong and Queen had driven to Ascot in landaus drawn 
by four horses with postilions in scarlet coats. The Edwardian 
scene was at its most brilliant. The sun shone. The King was 



Edwardian England i$i 

in good humor, with his horses doing well after a long period 
of reverses. The celebrities of the social world moved across 
the sward in white and pastel colors, their hats as large as cart 
wheels, their voluminous skirts sweeping the turf. They wore 
feather boas although it was June and twirled parasols of deli 
cate hue. Mrs. Palmer s gown was buttercup yellow, with a 
bolero embroidered with humming birds, flowers and stars. 
Her jewels were emeralds and diamonds. 

It was noted at once that the Duchess of Marlborough was 
missing from the scene. The former Consuelo Vanderbilt had 
disappeared from view and was passing the summer quietly at 
Deauville. By this time the public was aware that the Marl- 
boroughs had parted. Lady Paget s efforts to bring them to 
gether had failed and they were in royal disfavor. The Duchess 
absence from Ascot and the other events of the season pointed 
up the situation. For the first time since her marriage Consuelo 
had failed to appear at the annual Devonshire House dinner 
party or the Royal Ball, given that year in honor of the King 
and Queen of Denmark. 

Mrs. Palmer and Mrs. John Jacob Astor were invited to the 
ball under the top classification of distinguished foreigners on 
a par with ambassadors, while Mrs. William Astor s name ap 
peared on the secondary list. "It was a signal compliment to 
those two American women, and another evidence that they 
are growing in favor with King Edward, that they were on 
the list embracing the diplomatic corps and other foreigners of 
distinction," the New York World reported on June 16, 1907. 

It was distinctly an American season in London. When Mrs. 
Palmer went to the International Horse Show at Olympia with 
young Potter early in June she found E. T. Stotesbury, Clar 
ence H. Mackay, Alfred G. Vanderbilt, who had a string of 
thoroughbreds on exhibition, and other American horse lovers. 
Although she did not ride, Bertha had listened for so many 
years to her husband and sons talk horses that she had an alert 
eye for their points. 



i$2 Silhouette in Diamonds 

She attended a garden party given by the King at Windsor 
to wind up Ascot Week. The bands of the Grenadier Guards 
and Horse Guards played as eight thousand guests prom 
enaded in the castle grounds. Mark Twain, who visited London 
that summer, was being lionized on all sides. He was driven 
back to town from the garden party by Sir Thomas Lipton. 
Mr. and Mrs. Whitelaw Reid gave a dinner in his honor at 
Dorchester House. The Bradley Martins entertained him and 
the editors of Punch brought him and George Bernard Shaw 
together at a banquet for wits and writers. 

American dollars were flying in all directions, although the 
invasion was viewed with some skepticism. "American Cash 
Floods Europe," the New York World reported on June 16. 
It was estimated that $228,000,000 was spent that year by 
300,000 tourists from the United States. Thirty thousand 
women spent eight million dollars on gowns and one and a 
half million more on hats. The picture dealers garnered in five 
millions, as the visiting Americans bought pictures and objects 
of art for their great new mansions. 

A number of American debutantes and matrons were pre 
sented at court that summer, among them Anita Stewart, 
Marguerite Drexel, Muriel White and Mrs. David Beatty. 
Henry White, who had just been appointed Ambassador to 
France, wrote to Mrs. Palmer that his daughter Muriel 
would go straight back to her studies in Paris as soon as she 
had made her bow. 

Anita Stewart, the daughter of William Rhinelander Stew 
art, was presented by the Dowager Duchess of Manchester, 
a peeress who was anything but cordial to Mrs. Palmer. Bertha 
was encountering opposition from some of the women closest 
to the King. It was not so much that they objected to her as 
that they resented the American invasion encouraged by the 
King. This was not what separated her from the Duchess of 
Manchester, however, since the peeress was an American her 
self, a vigorous personality with a Louisiana, New York and 



Edwardian England 193 

Newport background. She was born Consuelo Iznaga del Valle 
and her father was a wealthy Cuban. She married Viscount 
Mandeville in 1876 before he interited the dukedom. Mrs. 
Palmer already had a number of friends among the peeresses 
when stories were cabled back to the United States early in 
1907 that she and the Duchess of Manchester were at odds. 

They first came into conflict at Biarritz. Mrs. Palmer had 
taken rooms with Princess Cantacuzene at the Hotel du Palais 
while the King was holidaying there. She had larger and bet 
ter quarters than the Duchess, fronting on the sea. There was 
much competition for rooms with the season in full swing. The 
Duchess suggested that Mrs. Palmer yield some of her space to 
her. Bertha, with "firmness, tempered with infinite sweetness," 
refused to exchange her rooms and the Duchess promptly 
moved to a villa. Mrs. Palmer eventually followed suit. 

For the next few weeks she saw a good deal of the King. 
She played golf with him on the nearby links and he dined 
with her three or four times and gave a dinner for Princess 
Cantacuzene. Julia discussed Russian affairs with the King. He 
had taken a trip up the Baltic and was in the mood to talk 
to her about the Czar and conditions in Russia. She found him 
adept at throwing the conversational ball from one to another. 
"He would draw from you all sorts of information which he 
would store away in his mind and then bring out in later 
conversations," she noted. 

Mrs. Palmer knew that she had to be politically alert to talk 
to King Edward. Although he did not have much to say him 
self and his pronunciation was syllabic he enjoyed good con 
versation and listened attentively. Abstract discussion bored 
him but he liked factual conversations with a leavening of 
anecdote and gossip, if it were not malicious. He probed for 
outside impressions of personalities and conditions in other 
countries and he showed close knowledge of things American 
in his conversations with Mrs. Palmer. 

There were never more than eight at the small dinners she 



i$4 Silhouette in Diamonds 

attended, which were usually arranged by Sir Ernest Cassel. 
The guests were carefully selected and they all sat at a round 
table, with their attention focused on the King. His big blue 
eyes bulged and suggested somnolence but he was surprisingly 
agile and rapid in his movements, considering his bulk. 

Mrs. Palmer was well primed on his likes and dislikes -before 
he dined with her. His intimates knew that he liked ortolans, 
lobster and game of all kinds. She had heard of the hearty 
luncheons at Sandringham, the fourteen-course dinners, the 
great feasts on the moors. She knew that however friendly and 
informal in his approach he never forgot that he was King 
and could snub the obtrusive in the most decisive way. He 
liked pomp, punctilio and decorations but at Biarritz he was 
incognito as the Duke of Lancaster and was friendly to all. 
This resort was his favorite after Sandringham and he took long 
drives in his Renault or Mercedes past the tamarisk-fringed 
rocks to visit King Alfonso at San Sebastian. He enjoyed the 
sweep of the sea, the bright colors, the long roll of the Atlantic 
breakers. 

Mrs. George Keppel, London s most discussed woman in 
1907, was at Biarritz and she spent much time with the- King. 
Mrs. Palmer saw them golfing, having tea and playing bridge 
together. When questioned later by friends about the fascinat 
ing Mrs. Keppel she always gave the same answer: "Nobody 
ever saw her in any position where she could be criticized." 
She considered her genuinely grande dame, a distinguished 
figure with impeccable manners. She admired her stately bear 
ing and her clothes, which were simple but perfectly adapted 
to her striking shape. She rarely wore jewels and never any 
thing at all eccentric or extreme. 

Bertha observed that the King did not take anything for 
granted where Mrs. Keppel was concerned. He would send a 
messenger to ask if she wished to play bridge with him, which 
of course she always did. For her own part she found Mrs. 
Keppel clever, kind and discreet. She was always well posted 



Edwardian England 19$ 

on news of the stock market, on the latest political move, on 
the choicest bit of gossip. She and her husband, the younger 
son of the Earl of Albemarle, were invited frequently to 
Sandringham and Windsor. Queen Alexandra viewed her with 
& tolerant eye and Mrs. Keppel made her own way in court 
circles with her unaffected manner and her wit, which was 
without sting or malice. 

Mrs. Palmer enjoyed Sir Ernest Cassel s conversation at their 
small dinners in Biarritz. This son of a Cologne banker, ambi 
tious, reserved and blunt, talked freely to her about his chari 
ties. He had given more than a million pounds for cancer 
research, hospitals and education. His chief ambition, he told 
her, was not to leave the world until the cure for cancer had 
been found. He was one of the King s closest friends, as well 
as being his financial adviser, and Edward had been godfather 
to his granddaughter, Edwina Ashley, later Lady Mountbat- 
ten. Sir Ernest liked to entertain in a princely way. He was 
bearded, wore rings like the King and smoked cigars con 
stantly. He had little luck with his horses but much with his 
investments. 

During this period Mrs. Palmer also came to know another 
of the King s favorites, the Marquis de Soveral, the Portuguese 
Minister in London and a popular figure, familiar to his inti 
mates as "The Blue Monkey" because of the bluish cast of 
his skin between shaves. He was witty, diplomatic and ubiqui 
tous. Women pursued this popular bachelor, who was known 
for his monocle, his Kaiser mustache and white boutonniere. 
His stories amused the King and he and Sir Ernest Cassel were 
as close to the throne as Palmerston and Beaconsfield had been 
in the days of Queen Victoria. 

Court life had become more cosmopolitan with King Ed 
ward. He welcomed the merchants and bankers of humble 
origin who had built up great fortunes through their own 
efforts. By 1905 the House of Lords had thirty-five bankers 
on its rolls and businessmen of all kinds were becoming peers. 



196 Silhouette in Diamonds 

Freed at last from the Victorian restrictions that had smothered 
him, the King modernized the court and dispelled the somber 
clouds of the past. Drawing rooms were held at night instead 
of in the afternoon. They were called "Courts" and were 
moved from the throne room to the ballroom, where they were 
stage-managed like pageants and wound up with magnificent 
baUs. 

A period of extravagance was ushered in, a fleshly era with 
feasts of Georgian proportions, great balls, dinners, garden 
parties, country weekends and entertainments of one kind or 
another. Beautiful women were much to the fore. The theater 
was encouraged. Money flowed through all the channels that 
catered to high living. The picture seemed larger than life size. 
Much of the court life was spent outdoors, since King Edward 
sought the sun to clear away the cobwebs of his mother s self- 
imposed isolation. He went from one country house to another 
and had pheasant shooting and partridge driving at Sandring- 
ham. The old stiffness was gone. The King visibly enjoyed 
himself and spread a hearty glow in all directions. The public 
liked to see him at the races surrounded by pretty w r omen and 
they approved his diplomatic forays on the Continent. Where 
Queen Victoria had used her statesmen he set out to sell the 
Empire by himself. Casting aside the prejudices of the Vic 
torian era he built up a reputation for smoothing out political 
differences. Much of it was done through his own genial per 
sonality. However, he quarreled with his cousin the Kaiser 
while he courted the Czar, and Queen Alexandra was an im 
placable foe of the German Emperor. 

Mrs. Palmer was quite at home in Edwardian England. 
When she moved decisively into the King s circle in 1907 she 
had stormed the last social citadel of that particular era in 
Europe. She had made her first court connections as far back 
as 1891 through Princess Christian but now she sailed along 
on the top stratum. After she took Hampden House she cast 



Edwardian England /P7 

her own particular aura as an adept hostess and was reported 
to have spent $200,000 in a single season there. 

The hotel restaurants of those days were not noted for their 
food, particularly in London, and most of the important 
British hostesses had French chefs. Scarlet-coated footmen, 
gold plate and champagne suppers were the accepted order. 
The houses had Queen Anne, Georgian and Adam decorations 
or else were solidly Victorian. Hampden House was pure 
eighteenth century, unremarkable on the outside but mag 
nificent within. It had only two floors but its hall was imposing 
and the ballroom was decorated by Angelica Kauffmann. The 
furnishings were Louis XVI. French doors in the back opened 
on to a garden that ran the width of the house. Here Mrs. 
Palmer gave teas and garden parties. Indoors she had balls, 
dinners and receptions. She was well established with the 
official set. The American embassies in every European capital 
were well aware of Mrs. Potter Palmer, and she was a friend 
of the Whitelaw Reids, who were particular favorites of 
King Edward VII. 

But the pace was fast, even for her. She moved vigorously 
with the social tide. She took a house on the Isle of Wight for 
Cowes. She went to Biarritz and Scotland. She was in London 
for its three-month season, on the Riviera in spring and in 
Paris whenever the spirit moved her. She attended innumer 
able balls, garden parties, race meets and horse shows. She put 
in appearances at Ascot, Henley, Lord s and Goodwood. She 
watched the Derby and the Oaks and drove to Ranelagh, 
Roehampton and Hurlingham. She followed the polo matches 
and went on yachting parties and country weekends. Mrs. 
Palmer and her jewels were often observed at Co vent Garden 
or in theater boxes in the West End. Even the chilliest mem 
bers of the peerage were forced to notice her presence among 
them. 

The theater flourished. New life had been breathed into it 



ig8 Silhouette in Diamonds 

by Ibsen, Oscar Wilde and Pinero. Shaw had come along like 
a bombshell. Henry Irving, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree and 
George Alexander had helped to raise the status of actors in 
general. The Ellen Terry jubilee had been celebrated at Drury 
Lane in 1906 with Caruso, Tree, Duse and Tosti present. King 
Edward liked the theater and encouraged its stars. Here he 
broke away completely from the stodgy tradition of the past 
and heartily approved an era of growth and innovation. 

Champagne was drunk in theater boxes. Stalls cost half a 
guinea. Clara Butt, six feet tall, was singing at Queen s Hall. 
Lily Elsie came tripping down a stairway at Daly s in June, 
1907, and soon all London was dancing to the Merry Widoiv 
waltz. The Gaiety Girls were the toast of the day and chorus 
girls were marrying into the peerage. Gertie Miller became the 
Countess of Dudley. Gertrude Elliott played in The Passing 
oj the Third Floor Back. Gaby Deslys had been appearing 
regularly in London since 1903. Operetta was the rage. 
Trilby s Parma violets might still be seen buried in the furs 
of dreamy-eyed girls. Four-wheelers, hansom cabs, victorias, 
barouches and four-in-hands were dwindling in number, al 
though some lingered on among the landaulets and motorcars 
that now invaded the streets and hastened Londoners to their 
country weekends. Mrs. Palmer believed in progress. She was 
not a sentimentalist, and she shared Honore s enthusiasm for 
motoring. 

With her usual efficiency she decided that she must become 
a good shot before joining friends in the shooting boxes of 
Scotland and northern England. Honore, a crack shot himself, 
was delighted to choose her guns for her and they took an ex 
pert named Bross north to Newtonstewart with them to prac 
tice on the moors. Bertha had heard guns, like horses, discussed 
all her life, for Fred Grant had hunted ever since his Civil War 
days and often took young Potter and Honore on trips with 
him. 

Honore now watched his mother with great interest as she 



Edwardian England i$y 

planted her broganed feet on the heather and handled her shot 
gun with determination. She backed up over the first explosion 
but got used to the backfire and in time became a good shot. 
Soon she took to the butts with her British friends, in plaid 
skirt and feathered hat. She had learned to play golf at New 
port so that she was not at a loss on the links with King Ed 
ward and his friends. But Bertha was less fond of sports as 
she got older. She did not greatly relish the shooting party 
luncheons in the damp tents or out on the open moors. How 
ever, she never gave a sign that she was not enjoying herself 
to the hilt, and she tramped over the moors with the agility 
shown by Mrs. Keppel, who was always said to walk through 
the streets of London with the stride of a Highland gillie. 

She liked the numerous changes of costume, however. Even 
at shooting parties women changed four times a day and she 
could bring out her Paris tea gowns and most gorgeous frocks 
for afternoon and evening. Tweeds or town dresses were 
worn early in the day; then at teatime women appeared in 
seductive, low-cut gowns of gossamer fabrics, to eat their 
watercress sandwiches and crumpets with no thought of their 
figures. The men wore bright-colored velvet smoking suits for 
tea or short black jackets and black ties when the King was 
present. The women then made another change and appeared 
for dinner in full panoply, with tiaras, trains and ostrich feather 
fans. Here Mrs. Palmer was at her best. She traveled with 
mountains of luggage, from tartan rugs to diamond stomachers, 
and with enough attendants to look after them. But she could 
live on a simple scale, too, and her niece saw this side of her 
when they toured the Continent by car. 

With Julia, Honore and Potter Mrs. Palmer was most truly 
herself. When her sons used to join her in Europe during their 
college vacations they all traveled happily together. Honore 
chose her motorcars for her. He bought his first Mercedes in 
Stuttgart and then drove his mother in it to Carlsbad. On 
other occasions he drove her from St. Moritz to Cadenabbia 



200 Silhouette in Diamonds 

and through various parts of France. She liked the Mercedes 
and Renault cars, then switched to Rolls-Royces when they 
became fashionable before the First World War. But she was 
an indefatigable walker and exhausted them all when they 
toured art galleries. 

Mrs. Palmer was fond of the Italian lakes and she made them 
all live on the native fare when they were touring there. She 
liked to eat the food of the country, wherever she was, and 
Honore and Potter often longed for hearty Middle Western 
fare. When traveling in this fashion with the young people she 
put up at small inns and enjoyed them. The Palmers were 
connoisseurs in hotels. The name Potter Palmer had always 
been a magical one on hotel registers and Bertha did not suffer 
from lack of service wherever she went. But when touring she 
never made any fuss about the quarters she got and she and 
Julia usually shared a bedroom on these expeditions. 

Her niece would never forget wakening up in the night 
on different occasions, to find her aunt sitting bolt upright in 
bed, her coiffure in perfect order, her dark eyes bright and 
alert as she studied pamphlets and books, to nourish future 
conversations. The subject might be forestry, or ballistics, or 
genealogy, or woman suffrage, or ceramics, or the Tang 
dynasty, or the French chateaux, or British politics, but the 
fare would be strongly factual and historical and Bertha would 
corral the gist of what she read and use it to good purpose in 
all the proper places. Whenever she knew that she would be 
meeting a specialist in some field she prepared herself in this 
practical way and earned her reputation of being well in 
formed on all manner of subjects. Actually, she had been read 
ing history all her life and was an able conversationalist but she 
had an inquiring mind and was genuinely interested in the 
problems of the day behind her facade of opulence and 
worldiness. She read very little fiction and was flooded with 
pamphlets of one sort and another, because of her many in 
terests. Her Chicago links followed her from point to point. 



Edwardian England 201 

Julia found her a good-humored and good-natured traveling 
companion. They lunched happily in St. Mark s Square, 
Venice, ate green figs on Lake Como, or sampled bouillabaisse 
in little French coast towns. They wandered along cobbled 
streets and poked in antique shops wherever they went. Mrs. 
Palmer never seemed to be in a rush, although she was alert 
and decisive. She gave the young people plenty of leeway in 
their operations and had great serenity of manner with them, 
rarely showing impatience. In retrospect Julia, to whom she 
seemed like a second mother, wrote of her: 

She had a talent of comradeship both in silence and in talk, 
which made her presence an ideal one. I never saw her cross, 
selfish, or hard, yet she inspired one to do right, through sugges 
tion more felt than heard, and her own mind was so quick, 
brilliant, and unpretentious with it all, that unconsciously one 
flashed the light back and was at one s best. I felt a deep devotion 
for her, and always found her ready sympathy and understanding 
a great comfort. 

When mutiny broke out in the Russian Army and Navy in 
1906 and a general strike was called Julia telegraphed to her 
aunt that she was bringing Prince Michel and Baby Bertha to 
London to be sent back to her mother in the United States. 
Her husband was deeply involved in the political situation and 
there was turmoil all around. It was not safe for the children 
to remain where they were. 

Bertha was delighted to have her grandchildren stay with 
her in London. She bought toys for them at MorrelTs and took 
them down to Southampton personally while Julia caught the 
Dover-Ostend boat, heading back to Russia and her husband. 
When the Princess reached home she found that the first 
Duma had been set up. Her husband was appointed to serve 
on the staff of the Grand Duke Nicholas. They bought a 
cottage at the military camp of Krasnoe Selo, within an hour s 
drive of St. Petersburg, and turned it into a garden spot. Until 



202 Silhouette in Diamonds 

the First World War broke out the Cantacuzenes lived in this 
flowery acreage, with an old-fashioned summerhouse from 
which they could see the gilded domes and spires of St. Peters 
burg, a distant line of forest and the blue Gulf of Finland. 
Prince OrlofFs palace was a political center and he and his wife 
were intimate friends of the Cantacuzenes. By this time Julia 
had borne a third child, named Ida, and her Aunt Bertha fol 
lowed her fortunes with the closest interest. 

Mrs. Palmer was more cosmopolitan in her friendships than 
most of the British peeresses. Her links with Russia and 
Austria and her work for the Exposition had brought her 
into touch with people of different races, and when friends 
arrived from Central Europe or other parts of the world she 
entertained them in the way she thought suitable. She was 
cordial to all religions and to all races and was on extra-good 
terms with the diplomats, and particularly with Sir Charles 
and Lady Hardinge, who had known the Cantacuzenes well 
while they were at the British Embassy in St. Petersburg. Lady 
Hardinge was now one of Queen Alexandra s ladies-in-wait 
ing and the King chose Sir Charles as Minister Plenipotentiary 
while visiting sovereigns abroad. They made an effective 
combination on diplomatic missions. The King paved the way 
by creating a favorable impression, and Hardinge followed up 
with conversations on detailed points, as they went from one 
country to another. 

Crete was seeking union with Greece at this time and the 
roots of imperialism were being shaken in different parts of the 
world. The Boer War was still a hotly debated issue at home 
and Olive Schreiner was being widely read. But the Triple 
Entente spread a warm glow for the time being and everyone 
who moved in Mrs. Palmer s sphere was convinced that the 
King had done a brilliant job. As an American of vigorous 
outlook she could be quite independent in some of her find 
ings and she did not always applaud the imperialist theme. She 
was well informed on politics and watched the forward sweep 



Edwardian England 203 

of events in both Europe and the United States. In 1907, in 
the midst of all the splendor and lavish spending there was 
agitation among railway employees in Britain for better wages, 
shorter hours and recognition of their unions. It was the Pull 
man story all over again. The fall of the Conservative Govern 
ment in 1905 had brought the Liberals into power. New and 
assertive voices were being heard. R. B. Haldane headed the 
War Office and Herbert H. Asquith was Chancellor of the 
Exchequer in 1907. 

Although the Countess of Warwick had faded from the 
social scene Mrs. Palmer was still greatly interested in her, 
because of her novel work, her philanthropy and the old 
stories told her by Stead. The Countess now filled Warwick 
Castle with radicals of every stripe. The lessons Robert Blatch- 
ford had taught her in the 1890^ were irreversible and she 
plunged deeper into schemes upsetting to conservative 
thinkers. 

The suffragettes by this time were the talk of London and 
Bertha watched their operations with interest. Although she 
never failed to champion the advancement of women in pub 
lic life her old convictions about the methods used were 
strengthened as she observed the militant tactics of Mrs. 
Emmeline Pankhurst and her followers. They seemed to her 
to be going too far when they threw themselves under horses, 
chained themselves to lampposts, kicked policemen, poured 
acid into letter boxes, and went on hunger strikes in jail 
Asquith was their pet aversion. They held a great parade in 
London in 1907, their dresses trailing in the mud, their banners 
flying, as they demanded votes for women. Mrs. Palmer was 
deeply interested in this demonstration. She believed in the 
dual arts of diplomacy and compromise, which she practiced 
herself upon occasion. But she was not blind to the fervor and 
devotion of the women who followed Mrs. Pankhurst. Some 
had banked on her as an ally, but she did not declare herself 
in public. 



204 Silhouette in Diamonds 

In London, as in Paris, Mrs. Palmer was surrounded by 
American women married to Europeans. She counted among 
her friends Lady Paget, whose gray-blue eyes were clear and 
observant under dark brows, whose speech was faintly Amer 
ican but who had become thoroughly English in outlook. She 
was the daughter of Mrs. Paran Stevens and a formidable 
figure at court. Another hostess whom she knew well was 
Lady Randolph Churchill, mother of a son named Winston. 
The former Jennie Jerome had King Edward s approval when 
she decided to marry young George CornwalHs-West after 
her husband s death. Petite Mrs. Cornwallis-West, with golden 
hair cropped short and hazel eyes, stepped politely out of the 
picture. 

The Countess of Craven was Cornelia, the daughter of 
Bradley Martin of New York and her daughter Daisy later 
became Princess Henry of Pless. The Marchioness of Duff erin 
and Ava was Florence, the daughter of John H. Davis of New 
York. All of the American set had been well aware of Mary 
Leiter s devotion to Lord Curzon and his great love for her. 
After her death he became a member of The Souls, a group of 
intellectuals whom Mrs. Palmer encountered here and there 
on her social rounds. Both Lady Curzon and the Duchess of 
Marlborough, who had entertained with great style at Sunder- 
land House, were missed in London. Now and again the tall 
and willowy Consuelo with her swanlike neck and melan 
choly hazel eyes crossed Bertha s path, but they did not know 
each other well. Mrs. Ronald Graham Adurray was one of her 
most intimate friends in Britain. 

Mrs. Palmer became familiar with the great ballrooms of 
London and the stately homes of England during this period. 
She was on good terms with Millicent, Duchess of Sutherland, 
and she enjoyed her intimate parties for clever, amusing and 
distinguished guests as much as she did the formal occasions 
when the beautiful Duchess stood at the head of the stairs in 
Stafford House to receive her guests. She admired the mag- 



Edwardian England 205 

nificent ballroom of Grosvenor House, where the Duchess of 
Westminster presided, and the white marble staircase of low- 
ceilinged Devonshire House, where the Duchess of Devon 
shire held sway. She observed Lady Londonderry s famous 
diamonds with interest but the Duchess of Manchester con 
tinued to slight her. The country house parties were particu 
larly liked by Mrs. Potter Palmer and one of her favorite 
hosts was the Earl of Straiford, whom she had known first as 
Robert Cecil Byng. She and Potter had been friends of Sir 
Thomas Edward Colebrooke, who had married into this 
family, and they often visited Wrotham Park in Herts, the 
family seat. It seemed a long way from her own turreted castle 
on Lake Shore Drive to the medieval fortresses of Britain with 
their moats and ivy-covered stone walls, their velvety lawns 
and bosky glades where hares and deer still postured as in the 
ancient tapestries. 



11 

^ Chaliapin Sings for Jfirs. Palmer 



When Chaliapin walked into Mrs. Palmer s 
drawing room in Hampden House and saw her for the first 
time he thought at once of Catherine the Great. She was 
anxious to have him try a few ballads in advance, so that she 
would know what his voice was like before he sang for her 
guests. She had assembled some experienced critics to hear 
him. When he sat down at the piano and sang to his own ac 
companiment his tones seemed to shake the walls and she 
hastily ordered the windows flung open to let the sound roll 
out. 

Bertha had pursued him all over Europe by telegram to get 
him to sing at one of her receptions. He had not yet appeared 
in London and was not internationally known although he had 
been a sensational success in Russia and had sung in Milan and 
Paris. His name at the time was most closely identified with 
"The Song of the Volga Boatmen." She had asked Julia to find 
a Russian artist with a good voice, someone who was really 
new and not yet too well known. She was to offer him any 
price to sing for her in London. 

Julia went to the director of the opera in St. Petersburg and 

206 



Chaliapin Sings for Mrs. Palmer 207 

he proposed Chaliapin as the perfect choice. But Chaliapin was 
fishing, swimming and hunting in France at the time and had 
no particular interest in a private offer. A deluge of telegrams 
reached his retreat from an "enormously wealthy American 
lady who wished me to come to London for one evening to 
sing a few ballads in hex drawing-room," Chaliapin later re 
called. 

"The idea of going to London for a single evening was too 
eccentric for me," he added, "and I therefore wired in reply, 
asking for terms which seemed to me to be incredible that the 
lady could accept; but the result was not what I hoped for; 
she replied immediately, accepting my terms, and thus I was 
obliged to go to London." 

He called on her at once "at a very fine house in the middle 
of a beautiful park." She was not exactly the type of American 
woman he had expected to see. "Young in face, although grey- 
haired, my hostess reminded me very strongly of the portraits 
of Catherine the Great," he noted. 

Chaliapin was introduced to Lady de Grey, to an impresario 
from Covent Garden, to several knowing listeners. As he 
drank tea with his hostess and conversed with her in French he 
quickly got the idea that she was waiting for him to sing. "To 
set her mind at ease I sat down at the piano and sang to my 
own accompaniment," he recalled. 

His ereat voice rolled out like thunder. Mrs. Palmer and 

o 

her guests were surprised and impressed. Next day he returned 
to sing formally at an evening reception. He was led to a large 
room opening out on the garden in the back The trees were 
hung with Japanese lanterns of various hues, a favorite touch 
of Mrs. Palmer s from her Chicago days. Malmaisons, then the 
preferred flower for house decoration, were artistically ar 
ranged on tables and stands. Chaliapin listened to the hum of 
voices as the guests moved back and forth between the salon 
and the garden. He was struck by the sweet trill of a bird. Ah, 
England and the nightingale! Chaliapin thought, although it 



20$ Silhouette in Diamonds 

seemed odd to him that the nightingale should be singing at 
night in the midst of such a babble of voices. When he ex 
pressed surprise the butler informed him that the bird was an 
artist with a whistle who sat in a tree in Mrs. Palmer s garden 
and trilled for ten pounds an evening. 

The bird was silent while Chaliapin sang Russian ballads. 
Mrs. Palmer s guests were stirred by his noble voice and he 
was encored time and again. Lady de Grey, deeply impressed, 
urged him to sing at Covent Garden and told him that she 
would arrange for the Queen to hear him at Windsor. She was 
adviser for the conceits and music at the royal residences. It 
was not always easy to strike the perfect balance between the 
King and the Queen, as the bandmasters were well aware. 
King Edward liked French and Viennese light opera and 
Queen Alexandra preferred grand opera and particularly 
Wagner. 

Although he did not sing for the Queen at this time because 
he had to hurry back to the south of France to keep an en 
gagement, ChaUapm soon appeared for the first time at Covent 
Garden, the sequel to Mrs. Palmer s party. Both she and Lady 
de Grey pushed him into view in London. When he sang 
Boris Godunov he found that his performance "became a 
veritable triumph for Russian art." Sir Henry Beecham led the 
applause and the "cold English" gave him a memorable recep 
tion. On his next visit to London King Edward came to hear 
him and stood up in his box to greet Chaliapin after he had 
sung. 

In the season of 1907-08 he appeared at the Metropolitan 
with Geraldine Farrar and Riccardo Martin but his American 
debut was a fiasco. "My artistic ideals were misunderstood, my 
performances were adversely criticized, and in general, it 
seemed that I was looked upon, artistically, as a barbarian," he 
wrote with some bitterness in later years. But his days of 
triumph at the Metropolitan lay ahead. 

His friendship with Mrs. Palmer and Princess Cantacuzene 



Chaliapin Sings for Mrs. Palmer 209 

continued and he visited them in Florida. But he ran into 
heavy trouble when he sang in Chicago. He was in and out of 
the headlines there and charges of fisticuffs, envy and amours 
flew thick and fast around him. "As such things have happened 
to me only in Chicago, I am obliged to conclude that the 
newspapers of that city have a special psychology," he wrote 
of Mrs. Palmer s favorite city. But she always felt that she had 
played a part in introducing him to a wider audience. 

Another of her professional entertainments created even 
more of a sensation in London and made headlines on both 
sides of the Atlantic. In 1907, shortly after the May court at 
Buckingham Palace, she brought Olive Fremstad over from 
Paris with her entire cast to sing Salome at Hampden House. 
This was startling, even to the most advanced Edwardians, 
since the Strauss- Wilde opera was under a censorship ban at 
the time. It had one performance in Dresden, three in Paris 
and was withdrawn at the Metropolitan after one showing. 

Mrs. Palmer daringly introduced the opera to Londoners at 
a party given in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Whitelaw Reid. It was 
such a success that the King asked to have it repeated for him 
and he arrived next morning for a private showing. The 
Fremstad performance gave Mrs. Palmer one of her more 
memorable evenings. It was preceded by a dinner at which 
champagne was served in priceless Venetian goblets of an odd 
shell pattern, and her gold and silver plate was in use for the 
epicurean feast her French chef had prepared. 

Bertha wore plain black velvet molded to her trim figure, 
with a dazzling necklace and stomacher but no tiara. Ropes of 
pearls were strung from shoulder to shoulder with dramatic 
effect. Mrs. Keppel, in gold brocade, sat with her after dinner 
and they discussed their plans for the later events of the season. 
Bertha announced that she intended to entertain at Cowes. 
Lady Paget wore stiff white silk with turquoise satin bows in 
her hair, and turquoise buckles on her turquoise satin shoes. 
Lilies edged Mrs. Ernest Cunard s bodice and two large lilies 



210 Silhouette in Diamonds 

spiraled from her hair. Mrs. Reid wore magnificent sapphires 
with a midnight blue satin gown. Bertha used her most expert 
party touch on this occasion, according to the New York 
World correspondent, who wrote: 

Mrs. Palmer was tireless, standing near the door of the concert 
room seeing to everything herself. Every guest had a comfortable 
chair for the concert, and chairs and couches were placed along 
the corridor, where the gentlemen and the ladies, too, finished 
their cigarettes while enjoying the music. It is becoming the rule 
rather than the exception at parties for some of the women to re 
main with the men, after dinner, to smoke. Six ladies, including 
Lady Paget, did this at Mrs. Palmer s party, not going into the 
concert room until the musical program was half over. 

Both Lily Langtry and Mrs. Patrick Campbell had already 
made headlines in America by smoking cigarettes in public. 
The craze was catching on, and Mrs. Palmer s Salome party 
gave it fashionable emphasis in London. She continued to use 
professional entertainers of the first rank at her major parties. 
Melba sang for her and she had Pavlova dance at her Paris 
home at a reception given for Honore and his wife. On that 
occasion she entertained the entire Russian ballet, along with 
Pasquale Amato of the Metropolitan. 

Each hostess tried to outdo the other with the artists she was 
able to lure into her drawing room. The stars were not by any 
means reluctant to lend themselves to these occasions. It spread 
their fame and added to their wealth. Paderewski played at a 
concert given in William Waldorf Astor s house at 18 Carlton 
House Terrace within a week of Mrs. Palmer s Salome party. 
The Reids had Jean de Reszke sing at Dorchester House. Lady 
de Grey gave lively and amusing parties at which the De 
Reszkes and Madam Melba often entertained her guests. 
Reynaldo Hahn conducted the Bal de Beatrice d Este at the 
Duchess of Manchester s in the presence of the King and 
Queen. The Rothschild cousins, Albert and Ferdinand, 
drew front-rank artists to their London homes and their 



Chaliapin Sings for Mrs. Palmer 211 

country seats in Buckingham. Albert had his own private 
orchestra which played in his Park Lane mansion, a thor 
oughly Victorian creation of plush, marble and gilt. Ferdinand, 
in Piccadilly, favored Louis XVI decorations and had a notable 
white ballroom. 

Always original, daring and different, Bertha introduced a 
new custom in England that summer by inviting her women 
guests to delve into huge baskets of lilies, forget-me-nots and 
roses, and fish for their own dinner partners from slips pasted 
to the stems of the flowers. "I am sick of the grumbles of men 
and women regarding the way I pair them for dinner, and so 
in the future I mean not to be responsible," she announced. "I 
shall let the ladies draw for their partners, and I shall do like 
wise for my own, even if the most insignificant man in the 
room falls to my lot." 

The year 1907 was the most brilliant socially of the Ed 
wardian era. When the American exodus began in September 
the excitement still went on, with a transatlantic race by the 
new turbine liner Lusitania to surpass the record. Mrs. Palmer 
booked passage for the maiden voyage of the 4j,ooo-ton liner, 
which had 550 first-class passengers aboard. Millionaires and 
their wives abounded on this crossing and she tramped the 
decks energetically with Cyrus H. McCormick, the Robert 
Goelets and other friends and acquaintances. 

A hundred thousand spectators saw the new turbine liner 
sail from Liverpool and sang "Rule Britannia" as she moved 
down the Mersey. Bertha found it the most stimulating cross 
ing she had ever had and she was now an annual transatlantic 
passenger. She followed each day s run with the liveliest inter 
est and even sent back bulletins to a Chicago paper. The 
passage was smooth and everyone believed that the Lusitania 
would make it, until she ran into fog off the American coast 
and was slowed up. When they docked in New York the 
Deutschland still held the record. 

Ida met her sister and was with her when the ship newsmen 



212 Silhouette in Dia?nonds 

swarmed into her suite and found her wearing a gray French 
broadcloth costume with wide stripes of a darker gray. This 
was topped by a huge purple hat with gray plumes, for she 
was still in half-mourning for her mother. She talked with 
reserve to the New York reporters, merely telling them that 
she had had an unusual and most enjoyable crossing. "The 
passage was smooth and the feeling that we were breaking the 
record was stimulating to everyone," she announced. 

She took the train at once for Chicago and wound up there 
next day, having traveled roughly four thousand miles by sea 
and land in less than a week, a considerable feat at the time. 
She knew the Chicago reporters individually but she looked at 
them coldly as they gathered around her at her home on Lake 
Shore Drive. Their papers had been linking her name with a 
succession of romances in Europe and she did not approve. She 
had saved her powder for the home press and she meant to set 
them straight. One paper earlier in the summer had gone so 
far as to run biographies and pictures of King Peter of Serbia 
and the Queen of Chicago, as if marriage were in the offing. 

The new generation of reporters in Chicago had grown 
brash. Once none would have dared to ask her specifically if 
King Peter had actually proposed to her, as the dispatches said, 
but she met the question without shock and responded huffily. 

"The idea is ridiculous," she said in her most matter-of-fact 
tones. "I have never even contemplated a union with him and 
do not intend to. You cannot be too emphatic in your denial 
of this. . . . The newspapers make so much of me. I do not 
want notoriety. I really have nothing to say. If I said anything 
it would be commonplace and if I said nothing it would be 
banal." 

The reporters pressed on. How about the Earl of Munster? 
Mrs. Palmer insisted that she did not even know him. How 
about the Duke of Atholl? She shook her head, although it 
was a fact that she had been seen with him in public, as with 
several other peers whose names had been linked to hers Sir 
Algernon West, for instance, a widower with a large family. 



Chalzapin Sings for Mrs. Calmer 213 

Mrs. Palmer was quite convinced that most of the rumors 
about her romances were emanating from a newspaper office 
in Chicago and she pointed out that no one abroad attached 
any romantic importance to her appearances at the theater, 
races and balls with well-known men until the Chicago papers 
presented speculation as fact. There had been widespread re 
ports that a newspaper owner s wife in Chicago was given to 
working up stories of this kind about well-known people of 
whom she did not wholly approve. 

"It is very annoying to a woman who is traveling alone and 
unprotected to have such things printed," Mrs. Palmer told 
the reporters severely. "Coming from one s own town, too!" 
But King Edward had whipped up some of this speculation 
by saying to Sir Schomberg K. McDonnell, who had been sec 
retary to Lord Salisbury and was the brother of the Earl of 
Antrim: "Why don t you marry a really rich American lady 
like Mrs. Potter Palmer?" The New York American promptly 
ran an eye-catching headline on March 17, 1907: "King Tries 
to Make Match for Mrs. Potter Palmer." The Four Hundred 
looked on with skepticism but her Chicago friends wondered 
if it might be true. 

Bertha was none too pleased about this. But she had many 
interesting conversations with "Pom" McDonnell, as he had 
been known since his days at Eton. He was Secretary to the 
Commissioner of Works from 1902 to 1912 and when Buck 
ingham Palace, Windsor and Balmoral were overhauled after 
the Queen s death, he had much to do with the removal and 
restoration of paintings. When working at Holyrood in 
preparation for a state visit to Scotland by the King and 
Queen he proposed hanging tapestries over the faded old 
portraits, imaginary in conception, of the early King of Scot 
land. But since these portraits had dominated the historic 
banquet given for Prince Charles Edward Stuart in 1745 and 
were part of the history of Scotland, "Pom s" plan aroused an 
outcry and they remained as they were. 

As Mrs. Palmer was interested in anything that had to do 



214 Silhouette in Diamonds 

with art she liked to discuss his work with Sir Schomberg. 
Sir Lionel Gust considered him an admirable official of the 
"best Whitehall type." He was a conscientious public servant 
who sometimes was at odds with officialdom and he was not 
an admirer of modern art, though he was of Mrs. Potter 
Palmer. 

She came closer to true romance in France than she did in 
England, however. Although aging she was still quite beauti 
ful. She accepted gallantry as a matter of course but did not 
encourage it. Among those who frequently called on her in 
Paris and Biarritz were the Count Louis de Lasteyrie of the 
Lafayette family, with whom her Honore ancestors had been 
so friendly, Prince Charles de la Tour d Auvergne, and a 
French duke who gave her the final accolade by inviting her 
into his Saint Germain family home. But Bertha did not think 
seriously of remarrying. She valued her freedom and enjoyed 
being Mrs. Potter Palmer, an ambassador at large for her 
country, feted wherever she went, sure of having her way. Her 
position was well established and she was wary of fortune 
hunters. The tragic results of titles bartered for millions 
already showed around her. Of all the American women who 
put down roots in France she and Consuelo Vanderbilt, later 
Madame Jacques Balsan, best understood the French nature 
and loved the country. With Mrs. Palmer it was a question 
of inheritance. 

By this time the Infanta Eulalia was back on her calling 
list and they met several times in Biarritz and Paris. She had 
decided to bury the hatchet with "this bibulous representative 
of a degenerate monarchy," an uncommonly sharp phrase that 
the tactful Mrs. Palmer was reported to have applied to the 
Infanta soon after the Columbian Exposition. Eulalia was still 
untamed and was in hot water again, this time with her 
nephew, King Alfonso, who had objected strenuously to a 
racy book on morals that she had written. It had been with 
drawn from circulation and Eulalia hid out for a time. 



Chdiapin Sings for Mrs. Palmer 215 

However, on her return to Chicago after all these stories 
about the brilliant season of 1907 had appeared in the local 
papers, Mrs. Palmer was eyed with more than customary in 
terest, even by those who had known her for many years. 
Some wondered if it might be true that she planned giving 
up her famous name. 

The Inter-Ocean, while headlining the fact that she laughed 
at stories of her engagement, went on to comment: 

Mrs. Potter Palmer returned home yesterday, and at once re 
sumed her undisputed sway and sceptre as sovereign leader of 
Chicago society. During her absence in Europe there have been 
many speculations as to who would wear her regal crown this 
winter; each section of the city, each particular faction of society 
had its aspirants, its heirs-apparent, its pretenders, and its claimants 
to the throne. But they all faded in a flickering glimmer yesterday 
morning when the Pennsylvania s eighteen hour flyer rumbled 
into the Union Depot and Mrs. Potter Palmer was in Chicago 
again. 

She gave one of her Monday "at homes" and all Chicago 
knew that she still led the field, although both Mrs. Marshall 
Field and Mrs. Harold F. McCormick, daughter of John D. 
Rockefeller, had been challengers. The Herald-Examiner 
noted that she "turned on her charm, chatted with her guests 
about Chicago s problems and achievements, and . . . there 
was no more debate about who was who." 

As usual, she looked over the lists with an appraising eye. 
The scene was changing. Veterans were dying off. Pretenders 
and newly rich of whom she did not wholly approve were 
coming to the fore. Mrs. Palmer always sought for solid 
values as well as the external trappings of wealth and status. 
Snob or not, she had the Middle Western knack of keeping 
her feet firmly planted on the ground. She was quite adept at 
dropping or cold-shouldering the pushing, the merely rich 
and the dissolute. 

The Charity Ball as a means of raising funds had been at- 



2i 6 Silhouette in Diamonds 

tacked by a group of Chicago ministers. They had called it a 
"left-handed, hypocritical, and thinly disguised effort to ease 
a guilty conscience." Somehow there was frost in the air and 
Mrs. Palmer was indignant when Higinbotham and Mrs. 
Bowen between them dug up old issues about the Fair. Her 
own horizons had widened and she felt far removed from 
malice and petty attack. 

Although she disliked personal publicity of any kind Mrs. 
Palmer understood its value for public causes. She had felt its 
sting herself upon occasion and did not underrate it. But she 
was always wary in talking to reporters and she knew it was 
wiser to mollify than to annoy them. They had been writing 
about her for years in one way or another and had called on 
her for everything in the way of symposiums from sex to 
religion, from etiquette to football. She had learned all the ins 
and outs of publicity at the time of the Columbian Exposition 
and had a sound understanding of newspaper needs. She had 
even considered starring or backing a paper in Chicago. How 
ever, as the years went on it became ever more difficult for 
reporters to break through her staff to get at her for anything, 
unless they happened to catch her on shipboard or in a public 
place. 

Only Charles MacArthur ever dared to ruffle her with 
deceit. Feeling prankish one night he made a bet with his bar 
room friends that he would bring Mrs. Palmer to the phone. 

"Impossible!" the skeptics exclaimed. 

"Wait and see," said Charlie. 

As usual, all the intermediaries were on guard, until he an 
nounced himself as William Randolph Hearst. Mrs. Palmer 
quickly came to the telephone but it did not take her two 
minutes to decide that she was being fooled. When she learned 
the name of her tormentor she was not amused and put up 
her guard more firmly than ever toward the press. 

Mrs, Palmer went west soon after her return from Europe 
in 1907 to join Honore and his wife at a ranch they had taken 



Chaliapin Sings for Mrs. Palmer 21 j 

in Oregon. Honore loved the open spaces, and his mother 
joined heartily in their healthy life there. Julia and her chil 
dren were with them and little Potter D Orsay Palmer, aged 
two, was another grandchild for Mrs. Palmer to cherish. She 
was back in Chicago in time to run the Charity Ball. It came 
off with the usual success, and she led the Grand March. The 
Cantacuzenes returned to Russia that spring and she visited 
them there and saw things settling back into an uneasy 
armistice after the disturbances of 1906 and 1907. 

She was in Europe in the summer of 1908 when word 
reached her from Chicago of young Potter s engagement to 
Pauline Kohlsaat. She hurried home at once to make friends 
with the serene, blue-eyed girl that her younger son had 
chosen for his bride. Pauline was the daughter of Herman H. 
Kohlsaat, whose progress Mrs. Palmer had watched for many 
years. His childhood was passed in Galena. He moved to 
Chicago at the age of fourteen, worked at various small jobs, 
then founded a string of stool and counter lunchrooms where 
a meal could be had for ten cents. From this he branched off 
into a large bakery business and became a wealthy man, 
eventually buying a half-interest in the Inter-Ocean, then 
selling that and buying the Chicago Times-Herald and the 
Evening Post. 

Mrs. Palmer knew him as one of the pioneers of her beloved 
city. Pauline was a quiet, conservative girl and she had a 
simple wedding at her father s home. Her sister, Katherine 
Kohlsaat, was her only attendant and Honore Palmer was his 
brother s best man. There was much talk in Chicago over this 
alliance but soon Mrs. Palmer was back in Europe again. The 
papers speculated now as to whether she might settle per 
manently in England or France. But when questioned about 
this she always insisted that she would never sever her ties 
with Chicago and she never did. However, she passed less time 
now in the Windy City. She was at Biarritz in the spring of 
1908. King Edward VII was there as usual but was mourning 



218 Silhouette in Diamonds 

the death of his good friend the Duke of Devonshire, who had 
succumbed to pneumonia at Cannes. They had been friends 
for forty years. Sir Ernest Cassel and Mrs. Keppel were again 
with the Kong and he was trying to get rid of the bronchial 
cough that had plagued him all winter. Later that summer his 
horses were lucky, which added to his popularity throughout 
Britain. "Good old Teddy," the public called him now. 

Mrs. Palmer was abroad again in 1909, the year in which 
Bleriot made the first crossing of the English Channel by air 
plane. Theodore Roosevelt, an old friend of Fred Grant s, 
was making history in the White House at this time and H. G. 
Wells was predicting that the wars of the future would be 
fought in the air. The public had found new ways of enjoying 
itself. Country weekends were the rage and the Sunday parade 
in Hyde Park was dwindling. The motorcar had made coun 
try pleasures more available to the average man. Great crowds 
attended the football and cricket matches. The cinematograph 
was in its infant stages and a restless groping for recreation 
was fomenting among the working classes. 

The King and Queen cruised in the Mediterranean in the 
spring of 1909 and had a picnic party halfway up Vesuvius. 
Edward was ailing on his return to London for the season. He 
had repeated bouts of laryngeal and bronchial catarrh and he 
no longer seemed to be able to shake off his fatigue. Mrs. 
Palmer was at Cowes when the Czar joined him there in the 
autumn of 1909. The King had been greatly cheered by 
winning the Derby that year. But this was a tumultuous and 
troubled year for him politically, with the threat of war hang 
ing over Europe. Late in 1908 the Austrian Emperor had 
annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina from Serbia, and early in 
1909 Arthur Balfour drew attention to the growing threat of 
German shipbuilding operations. 

Mrs. Palmer followed these developments with the closest 
interest. But meanwhile the social whirl went on and the 
Countess of Stafford gave a great ball in her honor in 1909. 



Chaliapin Sings -for Mrs. Palmer 219 

Bertha was considered the handsomest woman present, wearing 
her diamond stomacher, a circle of diamond stars around her 
neck and a high collar of jewels, resembling Queen Alexan 
dra s. She had won the London hostesses by easy stages. Few 
resisted her now and it was known to all that both the King 
and Queen approved of her. 

Mrs. Palmer admired Queen Alexandra. At sixty she looked 
no more than thirty-five. She was stone-deaf, unpunctual on 
all occasions, but she was gentle, had a sprightly wit and was 
much beloved by all who knew her. The King paid her every 
honor in public and insisted on his friends treating her with 
deference, even to the point of reproving the Duchess of 
Marlborough when she showed up in the Queen s presence 
without her tiara. 

The theater and literary world of London was in full flower 
as the Edwardian era neared its close. The giants of the 
Victorian age Meredith, Hardy, Wordsworth, Swinburne, 
Tennyson and Browning had given way to a new and vigor 
ous crop of writers. Wells, Shaw, Bennett, Galsworthy, Barrie, 
Beerbohm, Belloc, Conan Doyle and Chesterton were turning 
out books and plays that everyone discussed in the drawing 
rooms of the day. Kipling s jingles lived on with the British 
Army and his short stories delighted the sons of Eton and the 
entire English-speaking world. E. M. Forster, Hugh Walpole 
and J. D. Beresford were having their early books published. 
Ouida, Mrs. Humphrey Ward, Marie Corelli and the Baroness 
Orczy drew women readers. Robert Hichens Garden of Allah 
was a best seller. Hall Caine and Rider Haggard fed the popu 
lar taste and King Solomon s Mines and She were current 
favorites. 

Mrs. Palmer saw little of her old journalist friend, W. T. 
Stead. He had had a nervous breakdown soon after the Colum 
bian Exposition and his interest had veered to automatic writ 
ing, crystal gazing, and the promotion of movements for peace. 
He had made himself thoroughly unpopular during the Boer 



220 Silhouette in Diamonds 

War by attacking the war lords and he remained a stormy ele 
ment at the heart of government. Although Bertha encountered 
the Countess of Warwick as she moved around London there 
was no close link between them. The Countess was still a 
beauty, with masses of light hair framing her pale, proud face. 
She was the half-sister of the Duchess of Sutherland, of whom 
Mrs. Palmer saw more. The Countess had long ago given up 
all hope of converting King Edward to her political views or 
of softening him on the subject of woman suffrage. Although 
he had signed the register at her wedding and had been an 
"intimate and dear friend" for years, he was chilly when she 
brought up the subject of socialism. Nor could he endure the 
feminists who were giving trouble at this time and whose per 
tinacity was applauded by the Countess of Warwick. "God 
put women into the world to be different from men and he 
could not understand why women did not recognize this in 
stead of trying to copy men s pursuits," the Countess reported 
regretfully. 

Whitelaw Reid was due to return to the United States in 
1909 but he was so popular with the King that his term was 
prolonged and his warm relations with the court continued. 
He had been the American plenipotentiary at Queen Victoria s 
Diamond Jubilee in 1897. He had attended the coronation in 
1902 and returned as Ambassador in 1905. He was just making 
plans for the approaching visit of Theodore Roosevelt in the 
spring of 1910 when the end came for King Edward. He had 
given a great dinner party at Buckingham Palace in March 
before leaving for Biarritz. He returned late in April and went 
to the theater that evening. Next day he talked to Asquith 
about the political situation. A general election was brewing 
and the House of Lords was under attack. He received minis 
ters and governors from the Dominions and Colonies but had 
terrible spasms of coughing as he tried to talk to them. He 
played cards at Mrs. Keppel s but his heart was already failing. 

The Queen was summoned home from Corfu. Word ran 



Chaliapin Sings -for Mrs. Palmer 221 

through London that the King was dying. Nothing else was 
discussed in the great mansions and the humble pubs of Eng 
land. It was quickly known to Mrs. Palmer as to other Lon 
doners that in his last hours Queen Alexandra personally led 
Mrs. Keppel by the hand to his bedside. Soon afterward a 
member of the royal household went down to the railings and 
solemnly informed the great crowds gathered there: "The 
King is dead." 

Next day the Empire was in mourning. Flags hung every 
where at half-mast. Children marched to school in remote 
villages with wide black bands on their sleeves and black 
streamers dangling from their hats. The newspapers appeared 
with deep black borders and people everywhere wore mourn 
ing. A fortnight later King Edward was buried with his an 
cestors at Windsor in the final pageantry of his reign. Nine 
rulers and many princes and nobles attended the funeral 
ceremonies in London and at Windsor. Theodore Roosevelt 
was there to represent the United States. Many wept in the 
hour that the King was committed to the vault in St. George s 
Chapel, where forty-seven years earlier he had married the 
King of Denmark s beautiful daughter. 

London became a city of gloom. Black Ascot was held in 
1910 with every one present dressed in mourning from head 
to foot. Black ostrich feathers and paradise plumes drooped 
from cartwheel hats. Long sable fringes swung from gowns as 
men and women moved at a funereal tempo, remembering their 
life-loving monarch. Mrs. Palmer rarely went to London after 
the death of King Edward but used her house in Paris more. 
Court life changed. Old groupings broke up as King George V 
and Queen Mary ascended the throne. 

The year 1910 marked a big shift in her own way of living. 
As if she were starting life all over again she bought a vast 
acreage of wild land in Florida and found a fresh career fox 
herself in this jungle. 



12 



> Back to Mature 



Mrs. Potter Palmer was sixty-one when she 
sought a new and simpler life for herself in an unpromising 
wilderness close to the small town of Sarasota, which then had 
a population of nine hundred inhabitants. It was cut off from 
the rest of the world and the people supported themselves 
chiefly by growing fruit and catching fish. But life had not 
gone stale for Mrs. Palmer. She had merely reached the point 
of satiety in the ceaseless round of entertaining, and turned 
with vigor to creative effort in the sphere where her fortune 
was founded the purchase and development of land. She was 
fulfilling the family tradition to buy, to build, to expand, to 
make money and at the same time to serve the community. 
Both Henry H. Honore and Potter Palmer had shown her 
the way. 

"You must realize that the Palmer family is quite an institu 
tion," she told A. B. Edwards, Sarasota real estate dealer, after 
she had bought up thousands of acres of land in Florida. "The 
very foundation of the family is real estate. That is why we 
have invested so heavily in land down here." 

For the last eight years of her life she devoted her best 



222 



Back to Nature 223 

energies to developing her acres, to farming and ranching and 
establishing a domain in which she moved with the authority 
of a ruler. It was an early experiment in community farm plan 
ning and it gave her some of the bitterest lessons of her star- 
dusted life as well as much satisfaction. 

Perhaps at no time in her career was Mrs. Palmer more in 
comprehensible to her fashionable friends or more interesting 
to the impartial observer than during this final phase of simple 
associations and arduous work. She dug down to the grass roots 
of living in a way that satisfied something basic in her strenuous 
nature. There were no pretenders here, no crowned heads, 
no haughty duchesses, no aspirant hostesses, all of whom she 
had known in her time. Nor were there any further social pin 
nacles for her to scale. But she had abundant energy still to 
expend and all her business affairs and philanthropies were 
going well in Chicago. 

At one point she conceded that the minute she settled in her 
home town she was deluged with requests to serve on commit 
tees, to organize events, to join in a whirl of urban doings. 
She may well have been tired of it all, although none who 
knew her personally would admit that they ever saw traces of 
fatigue in Mrs. Potter Palmer until the closing months of her 
life. But she may have felt the need to seek refreshment in 
fundamental things. Her life had become artificial, high- 
powered and demanding. In any event, few ventures in her 
eventful life gave her more stimulation than her final years of 
farming. 

She became the builder, the planner, the doer. Her strong, 
enterprising touch was in full operation, but the cards were 
stacked on her side, too. Thanks to the Palmer fortune, she 
need spare no expense when experts were called for, when 
crops failed, when costs mounted. Yet the practical strain in 
her nature was strong. It was not enough to create a beautiful 
estate. She expected to make money as well as to head a sylvan 
community. Everyone in Chicago knew that as a business 



224 Silhouette in Diamonds 

woman she was shrewd and daring. But she had not counted 
on floods, sour soil, balky homesteaders, inept employees and 
the disasters of nature when she first viewed the sparkling 
waters of Sarasota Bay on a February day in 1910. Her plans 
were Utopian, her means unlimited. 

Mrs. Palmer s attention was first focused on this region by 
J. H. Lord, a real estate man in Chicago whose father had 
moved south in 1889 and bought more than 100,000 acres of 
land at from seventy-five cents to four dollars an acre. She 
sent her father to see Lord when a small advertisement for 
the sale of a citrus grove in Sarasota appeared in the Chicago 
Sunday Tribune. Then she invited the real estate man to din 
ner and listened to his expansive talk on the possibilities of real 
estate development in Florida. She and her father decided to 
go south and see for themselves. 

News that the famous Mrs. Potter Palmer of Chicago was 
coming to Sarasota shook up the small community. How could 
they house this elegant lady and her staff? She arrived with her 
father, her brother Adrian, her general manager, W. A. Sum- 
ner, and some servants. Edwards, who was commissioned by 
Lord to give her a royal welcome, decided that the local Belle 
Haven Hotel was too run-down for the widow of the man 
who had built the Palmer House. So Dr. Jack Halton s newly 
finished sanitarium at the water s edge was prepared for her 
use and she promptly began her explorations. 

Later, when they came to know her, the men who had wor 
ried about her reception realized that none of the fuss had been 
necessary. They found her a good sport "a swell girl," in the 
words of Albert Blackburn, who managed her ranch. She was 
equal to any emergency mutiny on her ranch, cut fences, un 
friendly homesteaders, flooded crops, dying cattle, broken- 
down trucks. She could take a joke and see the best side of 
calamity and those who worked with her found that she kept 
her temper under stress. 

She was captivated by Little Sarasota Bay as she sailed along 



Back to Nature 225 

with Edwards in a cabin boat and urged him to point out 
everything of historical interest, or merit, or any property that 
was for sale. Since he had wandered barefooted through the 
region as a boy he was able to give her a picturesque account 
of its natural wonders and the history of its settlers. On the 
way back her comments showed that she had absorbed every 
fact. 

When they reached Osprey, a little settlement in the woods 
founded by Judge John G. Webb, who ran a small guest house, 
Edwards told her of a curious growth, where two tall trees, 
a palm and an oak, intertwined. The coastline had already 
caught Mrs. Palmer s eye. 

"I must see that property," she announced decisively. 

The captain headed in to the dilapidated dock and the little 
group urged her not to go ashore. They feared that the price 
less Mrs. Palmer might flop in the water. But she jumped 
nimbly ashore over rotted planks and tramped through the 
jungle to view the enmeshed trees and the boxlike house 
that stood on the property. It had belonged to Lawrence Jones, 
a member of the John Paul Jones whiskey family of Kentucky. 
She asked if the place were for sale. The owner was absent. 
Edwards told her it was listed at his office and the price would 
be eleven thousand dollars for thirteen acres. 

Early next morning she hired a boatman and went back with 
her father and manager to see the owner. She thought she 
might do better by dealing direct with him but the price was 
the same. Although Edwards lost this transaction Lord and he 
had a hand in most of her subsequent land dealings. Eventually 
she bought close to eighty thousand acres around Sarasota and 
her total holdings at one time, including property at Tampa, 
amounted to 140,000 acres. The men who dealt with her found 
her a shrewd bargainer but a just woman. 

"Your Aunt Bertha has bought some rocks in Florida," 
Princess Cantacuzene was told when she returned from Russia 
in the winter of 1910 for a four-month stay. 



226 Silhouette in Diamonds 

Mrs. Palmer had been captivated not only by the tropical 
growth at Osprey but by the huge mounds made by the 
Indians in the distant past from millions of individual sea shells. 
The strange protrusions covered ten acres of land and rose 
thirty-five feet above the smaller bay, creating a picturesque 
strip of coastline that appealed at once to her eye. 

"Here is heaven at last," she told her father as she studied 
Sarasota Bay. "It reminds me of the Bay of Naples." 

Mrs. Palmer had sampled all the best resorts in Europe. Now 
she had spotted a winter home in her native land where she 
would find warmth and sunshine. Her father was very old. 
The Chicago winters were severe. Here she found the Riviera 
effect, but without the rococo touches and the overdone 
sophistication that she knew so well. The sun was strong, the 
birds and flowers were dramatic, the land was wild and she 
could do with it what she willed. But above all she was fully 
persuaded that she was making a good investment. 

The rush to Florida was only a whisper at the time but her 
father, who had prophesied Chicago s future, had followed 
Henry M. Flagler s development of the east coast with interest. 
Mrs. Palmer, who had been advised by her husband at the end 
of his life to invest her money in real estate, was ripe for this 
move. She would bring order out of the wilderness, cultivate 
citrus groves, create a model community of fruit and truck 
farms, build an Italian villa in the heart of the jungle and 
establish a colony of her own. 

Lord arrived from Chicago to spur on the fulfillment of this 
ambition. He drove her over his lands by horse and buggy and 
she soon acquired half of his extensive holdings. She quickly 
bought up all the property surrounding the Jones place at 
Osprey. There were no paved roads or easy means of com 
munication around Sarasota, Osprey or Venice at this time. 
But before investing she stipulated in the purchasing contract 
for fifty thousand acres that a railroad spur must be built from 
Sarasota to her property. Pressure was brought to bear on the 



Back to Nature 227 

Seaboard Air Line Railroad to make this gesture for Mrs. 
Potter Palmer. It was even, suggested that she would organize 
a railroad of her own if the plan did not go through with 
expedition. Within thirty days the spur was under way, run 
ning from Sarasota to Venice, and serving her property. 

Mrs. Palmer went to work with her customary drive and 
large-scale planning. There were roads to build, irrigation 
ditches to be dug, crops to plant, landscaping to be done, and 
the house to be designed. She commissioned a Boston architect 
to draw up plans for her Italian villa but in the end she con 
tented herself with remodeling and enlarging the house that 
stood on the property. She named her place The Oaks. 

All manner of experts were summoned to Osprey for con 
sultation. Gardeners, landscaping specialists, architects, engi 
neers, horticulturists were called into counsel. A geologist from 
the West coached her on the nature of the Florida soil, the 
water elevations, the substrata and general irrigation problems. 
Mrs. Palmer studied books and pamphlets on likely crops. She 
experimented and became as knowing about Florida land and 
as technical in her talk as she had been about her Impressionist 
paintings, factory conditions in Chicago, Central European 
politics, Chinese porcelains or woman s status in the Orient. 
But some of the natives thought her gullible and deplored the 
scientific theories of her experts. In the midst of all the hubbub 
she would turn to the Florida Department of Agriculture or 
call up Edwards in the middle of the night to settle a point on 
water elevation. Mrs. Palmer was too diplomatic to override 
local opinion. She wanted seasoned advice, from whatever 
source, and then she drew her own deductions, but this did 
not save her from some grim mistakes. She brought in nearly 
every new machine and gadget turned out by the International 
Harvester Company. Some worked. Others were duds on her 
difficult land. She bought her own sawmill and hauled lumber. 

Mrs. Palmer planned to own the largest grapefruit acreage 
in the world. She hoped to have tank steamers coming in the 



228 Silhouette in Diamonds 

Big Pass to haul fruit juices to Europe. She foresaw a winter 
resort at Venice along European lines and a race track on her 
property. She was determined to cultivate the indigenous crops, 
promote scientific methods and raise the status of the com 
munity. It was a two-way investment in real estate and human 
values the old Palmer combination, to make money and help 
the community at the same time. Some of her plans went 
through. Others failed. The obstacles she encountered were 
formidable. She picked up large acreage for comparatively 
small sums, then sank a fortune in developing the land. She 
did not live to see great profits but her first eleven-thousand- 
dollar investment at Osprey has mushroomed today into the 
strong family inheritance of the Palmer First National Bank 
and Trust Company in Sarasota, the Palmer Florida Corpora 
tion, the Palmer Nurseries Garden Center and the Palmer 
ranch. Streets in the vicinity testify to the Palmer influence- 
Potter Street, Honore Avenue, Palmer Boulevard, Adrian 
Avenue and D Orsay Street. 

By 1911 the work of clearing timber and landscaping was 
well under way. Mrs. Palmer had always had a taste for the 
outdoors and for horticulture. Her conservatory on Lake 
Shore Drive and her gardens in London and Paris had been 
more than ornamental appendages to her houses. She knew 
about flowers and plants and trees and now she extended this 
knowledge with concentrated study of the sort of vegetation 
that would do best in the Florida soil. Lawns and gardens 
were laid out, crossed by paths that were designed to follow 
the natural flow of the land. She particularly wished to save 
the more beautiful trees. 

The remodeling and enlargement of the house presented 
problems. No carpenters were available, so local fishermen 
were called in to work under the direction of Thomas Reed 
Martin, an architect whom she brought from Chicago to direct 
operations. Like the other men who worked for her he found 
her money-wise and a hard-driving business woman, but just 



Back to Nature 229 

and open to reason in her dealings. Plants and shrubs were 
imported and fitted into the native setting. An artificial brook 
ran from the well on the hilltop, winding through the jungle 
and splashing over rocks at the bottom. The Duchesne Garden, 
better known as the sunken Blue Garden, was picturesquely 
framed by the shell mounds of the Indians. Another garden 
was devoted to roses and rare varieties were brought from all 
parts of the world. A pavilion fronted on Mirror Lake. Masses 
of mauve orchids stirred in the sea coast winds and the Schizo- 
lobiwn excelswn, a rare Brazilian flowering tree, grew in 
feathery masses. Visitors walked through rows of yellow 
acacias, past Chinese hibiscus, bougainvillaea and brilliant 
crotons. Mrs. Palmer never tired of the jade, amethyst and 
turquoise of sea and sky, of the dramatic sunsets and shifting 
winds, of the cardinals and mocking birds that darted through 
the jungle, of the laurel and resurrection trees that grew with 
out her aid. 

"The most wonderful thing in the world is a garden," she 
told a reporter at this time. "I have found my one talent, if I 
have any, at Sarasota Bay. It is to watch beautiful things grow 
and see flowers blossom as I plant them." 

Vines shadowed The Oaks, which became famous for its 
beauties, both natural and contrived. The simple white- 
columned porch faced toward Midnight Pass. Indoors was cool 
and shadowy on the hottest day. Mrs. Palmer chose to call it 
her "beach cottage," but her art, her crystal, china and silver, 
the tall bisque figurines with which she adorned her dining 
table, and her entourage seemed luxurious enough to visitors. 
She presided with style and still wore Paris gowns for dinner, 
but her more striking jewels were never seen at The Oaks. She 
used chintz with some of her Louis XVI furniture brought 
from Chicago. A few of her favorite paintings hung in the 
house. She believed in enjoying her art as well as in owning it, 
and would often pause before her pictures and admire them. 
Her Impressionists looked particularly well in this setting of 



230 Silhouette in Diamonds 

sunshine, color and the sea. One of Monet s haystacks hung over 
her eighteenth-century, French provincial, carved oak mantel 
piece in the living room. Raff aelli, Degas and Cassatt, as well as 
Monet, were represented. After her death one of the down 
stairs rooms was converted into a miniature art gallery and 
The Oaks became a show place for the public. 

Sea walls and docks were built along the shore front of her 
property. Her private dock fronted on Little Sarasota Bay. 
The Palmer family used speedboats and bathed at Crescent 
Beach, where a cabana stood on white sand, but Mrs. Palmer 
never lounged on the beach. Her energetic nature demanded 
ceaseless action. She was the executive every hour of the day. 
Her family gathered in strength around her. Her sons Honore 
and Potter, by this time mature businessmen and executives of 
the Sarasota- Venice Company organized for her holdings, 
built a home named Immokalee at Sarasota. Her uncle, Benja 
min F. Honore, built The Acacias, a colonnaded mansion on 
top of an Indian mound, with a splendid view of the bay. Here 
he and his wife Laura held open house for the Honore clan. 
Mr. Honore, Adrian and Nathaniel came and went. Mrs. Fred 
erick Grant stayed at The Acacias after her husband s death 
in New York in 1912. 

The Chicago Sunday Tribune carried a full-page layout of 
Sarasota pictures. When her fellow townsmen learned that 
Mrs. Potter Palmer had invested heavily in the region a number 
followed her there, as Kentuckians had followed her father to 
Chicago. The little town, founded in 1886, came to life about 
the time of her arrival. A small electric plant was installed 
and two feeble street lights shed their beams on Main Street, 
which still had a stream running down its center and live oaks 
lining it at either side. Municipal waterworks and a sewage 
system were installed. Sea walls were built. A new bank was 
opened. The Yacht Club revived and the first motion picture 
Sarasotans had seen was offered in a tent show for ten cents a 
viewing. 



Back to Nature 231 

Mrs. Palmer gave impetus to the town s development by 
establishing payrolls. She would demand three hundred men 
at a time. She told Blackburn to hire anyone who would work, 
but the local supply did not meet the demand, so she brought 
in workers from the outside Italians, Negroes, men of differ 
ent races. This invasion was not welcomed by the native home 
steaders and her labor troubles began. However, she paid the 
highest wages along the seaboard and sparked Sarasota s busi 
ness start. 

Her thirteen hundred acres of citrus groves did well and 
soon she was shipping grapefruit to Chicago. She reclaimed 
an area of muck land east of Sarasota, had it drained and irri 
gated, and started vegetable crops. Here celery growing be 
came a major local industry after her death. But her first big 
venture the Bee Ridge development, designed to promote 
model farm development came a cropper. She cut up seven 
thousand acres into ten- and forty-acre tracts and started a 
selling campaign. But the settlers were not happy. They com 
plained that the land did not come up to expectations. The as 
sorted types who arrived expressed dissatisfaction and Mrs. 
Palmer felt the chill winds of public disapproval 

As always when checkmated she moved on to other things. 
Her next step was to establish a model cattle ranch called 
Meadow Sweet Pastures in the Myakka River region, popular 
with hunters, anglers and campers. When she first toured this 
area by horse and carriage she was impressed by its lakes 
and towering palms, its giant oaks draped with Spanish moss 
and its rich pastures. 

She was an enthusiastic sightseer and served the party with 
a picnic lunch she had brought with her. Recent rains had 
flooded the road and water soon lapped at the carriage floor. 
She refused to turn back. Instead the elegant Mrs. Palmer 
tucked her skirts firmly around her ankles and propped up 
her feet above the water line. 

Her attention was drawn to the beauty of Shep s Island. 



232 Silhouette in Diamonds 

"There s approximately 6,000 acres in that tract and you 
can get it for about $75,000," Edwards told her. 

"And much as if she were ordering a bag of peanuts, she 
said, Buy it for me, " the real estate man recalled. 

But she did much of the negotiating personally with Gar- 
rett Murphy, a cattleman better known as "Dink." He told 
her he would sell the land but must first dispose of his 
cattle. 

"That s easy. I ll buy the cattle, too," Mrs. Palmer assured 
him. 

In no time at all she was handing over to him a check 
for $93,000, while he moaned that he was giving up his life s 
holdings. However, when he walked into the next room 
where some of his rancher friends were waiting as this interest 
ing encounter took place, he kissed the check with enthusiasm. 
Mrs. Palmer rounded up three separate ranches in all. The 
highest sum she paid for this land was four hundred dollars an 
acre; the lowest was eight dollars an acre. With the acquisition 
of three thousand head of cattle with the Murphy ranch she 
began an intensive study of the cattle business. 

Meadow Sweet Pastures was eighteen miles from The Oaks, 
so she built a camp at the end of Upper Myakka Lake, largely 
for the benefit of her grandchildren. Potter D Orsay was six 
in 191 1 when she took up residence at The Oaks. Little Honore 
was three. A year earlier Pauline and Potter had had their first 
son, who became Potter Palmer, III, so that when Mrs. Palmer 
settled in Florida, she had three grandchildren, and two of 
them bore her husband s name. 

She installed an electric power system at the camp and set 
up a group of portable bungalows on the property. Colored 
lights were strung all through the palms and vines. She jour 
neyed with her family and parties of friends to the camp, tak 
ing her butler, cook and a retinue of servants to make life 
comfortable for all concerned. This was her place of retreat 
and she enjoyed it. People came from far and near to try to 



Back to Nature 233 

catch a glimpse of Mrs. Potter Palmer roughing it in the woods. 
She chummed with the ranch workers but retired out of view 
at mealtime. She was not a stranger to this sort of life. She had 
often joined Honore and his wife at their ranch in Oregon. 
Bertha was as adept in the wilds as in a Victorian drawing 
room. 

Her days at Osprey were rich with enterprise and novelty. 
The men who managed her ranch and citrus groves got closer 
to Mrs. Palmer and stood less in awe of her than many of her 
friends in Chicago and Europe. If she had felt lonely at times 
in the social pastures of Newport and elsewhere she came 
closer to the average human being in Florida. True, she was 
still surrounded by a retinue of servants, secretaries and man 
agers, but the men on her property could talk to her at firsthand 
as she rode around. They could bring their grievances to her 
and be heard. 

She would tour every spot where work was under way in 
the early days by horse and buggy, then in a Model-T Ford, 
finally in Cadillacs. "She was always a good sport and most 
wonderful company," Blackburn recalled. "As far as comfort 
or looks were concerned she would just as soon ride in a 
truck as a Rolls-Royce." The foremen would come up to her 
car and report on progress. At home or abroad she knew what 
everyone was doing, what money was being spent, what re 
turns she was getting. If the news was bad she took it without 
a sign. Her letters expressed what she felt but in conversation 
she was cool, unruffled and polite, even under stress. 

"She never fussed about anything she was too sweet for 
that," Captain Frank Roberts, skipper of the Betsy Roberts, 
commented. She would be down at the dock at eight in the 
morning to meet his boat coming in. He brought in ice, mail, 
supplies of all kinds her precious Monets, implements from 
the International Harvester Company, seeds from distant lands, 
rosebushes, caviar, Paris gowns. Once she served a "silver tea" 
on top of his boat. The butler set it up and Mrs. Palmer 



2^4 Silhouette in Diamonds 

poured tea for the Captain as they rounded the point. For a 
time she let Captain Roberts passengers tour her place during 
the brief stop his boat made at Osprey, but they did so much 
damage to her gardens and carried away so many souvenirs 
that she had to end this custom. 

As she made her rounds, directing workmen and studying 
new growth, she wore simple tweeds, or plain linen skirts with 
batiste blouses, all beautifully fashioned to fit her still trim 
figure. She wore walking boots and used a cane. Friends who 
visited her in the afternoon recall her poised at lookout points 
with a wide-brimmed hat to shield her pink and white com 
plexion from the sun, and a tall staff resembling a shepherdess 
crook that gave her a queenly air. She was now the lady of the 
land, running an agricultural empire. It was creative effort that 
she felt was good for the community and stimulating for her. 

"She was constantly on the go," her Sarasota physician, Dr. 
Joseph Halton, recalled. "She was a natural born cruiser, 
mentally and physically. She left the rocking chair for other 
people to get into. She radiated influence and was a good 
listener. When you interviewed her you felt you were in a 
presence and you pondered your words. She was an engaging 
conversationalist herself and had a good sense of humor." 

Dr. Halton was persuaded that Mrs. Palmer found her 
early years in Florida her best. She had seen much, experienced 
much. She was ripe on the bough and knew at last what she 
wanted. Her grandchildren were growing up around her and 
her family sense was unfailingly strong. She was aging grace 
fully, and felt that she *had never been so useful. She refused 
to sell a foot of her land until the last few months of her 
life. When Edwards would propose a deal she would laugh 
it off. "Why, I wouldn t think of disposing of that beautiful 
piece of property. It s the apple of my eye." 

She rarely told stories herself but she enjoyed a joke, and 
one of her favorite companions was a surveyor named Arthur 
Tuttle, who had an endless stock of anecdotes that genuinely 



Back to Nature 235 

amused her. She made helpful suggestions when a truck had 
to dig her car out of the mire. She did not complain when her 
alfalfa crop failed, her pheasants died, her tulips refused to 
grow in the native soil or her wild rice patch was flooded and 
had to be harvested from boats and fed to the mules. Daily 
there were disappointments that even money could not rem 
edy. 

Blackburn kept harping on the desperate need for drainage 
and she entertained a government engineer at a picnic on a 
sand bed under a bridge. She wanted him to build a canal from 
the Myakka to the bay. 

"Madam, you are not properly coached/ he told her. "You 
know, it s hard to get the government to dig a canal in dry 
land." 

When T. Coleman du Pont dined at The Oaks, Mrs. Palmer 
had Blackburn join them to discuss drainage of the land. 

"I make blasting powder," he reminded her. "I could blast 
it right through the county." 

Mrs. Palmer took him up at once on this. "Let s have a 
canal," she said. 

Operations were started and the first three or four shots 
blew some sand around. 

"It seems as if this soil doesn t blast well," the experts finally 
agreed. 

But her major farming troubles began with the ranch. She 
made the mistake of having silos built, like the cattlemen of the 
Midwest, not realizing that in Florida the cattle could graze 
all year on the ranges and pastures. Then she quietly imported 
a carload of seventeen Brahma bulls and turned them out on 
the range, cross-breeding them with the native cattle. She put 
up buildings for the ranch hands and had cement hauled by ox 
team to make vats for dipping the cattle, an innovation which 
was regarded at first with great suspicion but resulted finally 
in the disappearance of ticks. Some of the homesteaders sat 
around with rifles, sure that the process would kill their cattle. 



236 Silhouette in Diamonds 

They believed that the ticks came from within. In the end, 
when the good results were apparent, they all sought this boon. 

Tick fever was wiped out. With her dipping vats, the fine 
grasses that she planted for feed, and the blooded cattle she 
bred, Mrs. Palmer was ahead of her time. But the value of these 
steps was not immediately recognized. The natives disliked her 
prize cattle and thought that they did not thrive on the Florida 
scene, but in later years her son Honore and his wife continued 
to breed Santa Gertrudes, and ticks no longer plagued the 
rancher. Mrs. Palmer shipped the first trainload of cattle ever 
to go out of Florida. It went to Texas and brought in $25,300. 
She liked to think of herself as a rancher, in spite of all the 
trouble this title brought her. 

"Before she died we had seventeen hundred of the best cows 
I have ever seen," Blackburn recalled. 

The free range was traditional at this time and when Mrs. 
Palmer decided as a protective measure to fence in some of her 
property there was local indignation. She had done all that she 
could to propitiate the homesteaders and squatters. She gave 
barbecue roasts for the workers. She visited the wives of the 
original settlers and established friendly relations with them, 
avoiding the patronizing note and recognizing their native 
pride. The old families liked her, but woodsmen, squatters and 
hermits who were disposed to go out with wire clippers by the 
light of the moon cut down a stretch of her fences and killed 
many of her cattle one night. It became a habit with them to 
raid her property and plague her workers when she was away. 
The minute she turned her back mayhem broke loose. She was 
particularly outraged by the attacks on her Negroes and the 
shooting up of her property. 

Echoes of these disturbances followed her to Paris, where 
she went in the spring of 1914. Another raid had taken place 
and she felt she could no longer tolerate the situation. She 
sent a warning to V. A. Saunders, who ran the local store at 
Osprey, that he had better let the men who gathered on his 



Back to Nature 237 

premises at night understand that she would turn the law on 
them if there was one more demonstration. These attacks had 
become notorious, not only locally, but in Tampa, Jacksonville 
and much further afield, she pointed out. No community could 
prosper with such a "gang of lawless desperadoes . . . allowed 
to go at large." She had every intention of protecting her prop 
erty and her workers. She was not giving warning in "an 
unkind spirit" but she meant business. Mrs. Palmer came right 
to the point: 

Since buying at Osprey I have been greatly annoyed by the 
annual criminal assaults on my place and on my innocent, un 
protected, sleeping Negroes, by cowardly bands of armed men 
who came at night to shoot them up and drive them away. Every 
investor wants to know first of all about labor conditions, and to 
find a community away back in the atrocities of the lawless Ku 
Klux era finishes its case at once. 

Mrs. Palmer wrote in the same vein to Blackburn on April 
14, 1914: 

What prospective buyer would invest there after learning how 
I was treated, I who have spent a large amount of money to show 
what the soil and climate can do and to create values. . . . What 
a horrid position I am forced into. It is disgusting. I should feel 
very badly to help put any man in the chain gang but perhaps it is 
our duty and thus make the country possible for honest, law- 
abiding citizens who are trying to develop it. 

Aside from outside depredations there was mutiny among 
her own workers. William F. Prentice, her manager at The 
Oaks, was an Englishman who had taken out American citizen 
ship. He was unpopular and although she had great faith in 
him she had to take him to task. She was informed on all sides 
that he was overbearing with the workers and too prone to 
criticize the Crackers. She did not like this, and she thought 
that he should do more for new workers coming in. "I want 
the Negro quarters fixed comfortably," she wrote. He was 



2$8 Silhouette in Diamonds 

not to allow the men to shirk or neglect their work but he 
must treat them justly and kindly* if they gave good service. 
If they did not, "I want them to go." She finished by telling 
him that she thought him a very good man, but that the dis 
content worked to her disadvantage, and he must pay atten 
tion to the points she raised. 

Even while she was reprimanding Prentice she wrote vigor 
ously to Blackburn in his defense, saying that he was a fixture 
and invaluable, while the men under him "passed to and fro 
like the tides of the sea." He and his wife were "trustworthy, 
capable, responsible people and I greatly esteem them, and 
will never let them leave me." Actually, Prentice s life had 
been threatened on four occasions and she let the word get 
around that "if a hair of his head were injured those at fault 
would pay dearly for it." 

In the end she discharged everyone who had been disloyal 
to Prentice and he continued to report to her on every move 
being made at her place. At home or abroad Mrs. Palmer must 
be kept closely informed. She could follow almost from hour 
to hour what her workers were doing. She gave advice and 
directions by long distance. Did Hawkins go down deep in 
his search for the bulbs planted around the lake? How much 
did it cost to run the big engine for five hours? How long did 
it take a "faithful workman" to go over all the lawns with 
the mower? What experience had the new gardener had? Had 
he good references from his last place? "A good gardener is 
not like a day laborer, he leaves his record, good or bad, be 
hind him," Mrs. Palmer commented. How were the roses do 
ing, and the crepe myrtle hedge, and which vines fared best 
on the tall green poles? 

Were the fire hoses all in order and were they kept near 
each house? "I do not want any smoking near the houses, or 
anything that might cause a fire." The rose garden and the 
Duchesne Garden must be weeded by hand and should be 
done by the head gardener. "One of the little hand cultivators 



Back to Nature 239 

might possibly be small enough to run between the rose 
plants, or else the gardener will have to use one of the 
3 -pronged weeders to get them out," she wrote. 

It would not be necessary to commence with the flower seed 
before August and she would send him a list of what she 
wanted planted before then, she wrote to Prentice. No water 
ing was to be done during the heat of the day. This had killed 
many plants during the rainy season. A most conscientious 
man was to have this duty "otherwise it will do no good and 
he will only waste his time and the water." The best times 
were from five to eight in the morning and from four in the 
afternoon. 

Mrs. Palmer told Prentice precisely how he should train the 
vines on the poles and enclosed a sketch done by herself to 
show what she wanted. She had studied many beautiful gardens 
in Europe and had not viewed them with her eyes shut. The 
privet hedges were to be trimmed. Expenses were to be cut 
to the bone. No one was to be hired without her permission 
until her return. But the gardeners were not to be restricted in 
any way. 

On July 10, 1914, with the First World War a month away, 
Mrs. Palmer wrote to F. H. Guenther of Sarasota from the 
Rue Fabert, making it clear that she was tired of spending 
money on The Oaks when labor conditions were such that all 
the work done in winter, and the plants she put out, were lost 
in summer through her workers being driven off, plus the ig 
norance and laziness of gardeners. Things were to be kept 
down to the simplest planting, with only a few men caring for 
the place. She would no longer attempt to do what she had 
planned, since Osprey had become a "burden of work and care 
while I was there and a continual nuisance when absent." She 
had been forced to spend all her spare hours since reaching 
Paris writing back "to keep the peace and making plans and 
giving elaborate directions to have them carried out." 

But Prentice continued to report cheerfully from The Oaks. 



240 Silhouette in Diamonds 

The rain was good after a drought. They had laid tile drains 
through the beach to the sea wall and had cut a road through 
the shrubbery without sacrificing any trees. They had cleaned 
out the cabbage trees and cut down the dead orange trees in 
two of her groves. The large sycamore tree was a "perfect pic 
ture." The terrace was being sodded. The roses were being 
cut back. The hogs were healthy. The pampas grass was in 
full bloom. When the teams finished plowing, harrowing and 
hauling, the shell work for the roads would begin. By ill-luck 
125 feet of the South Road sea wall had collapsed in a heavy 
storm. The begonias, forget-me-nots, violets, mixed geraniums, 
bougainvillaea, poinsettias and spineless cactus were thriving. 
Men were working on the rose garden, The Oaks garden and 
the Bermuda lawn. The mule at the farm had died of old age. 
Prentice had been asked if Labor Day would be a holiday. He 
said no. The only holidays were Thanksgiving, Christmas and 
the New Year. "In conclusion, Madam," he finished, "I am 
pleased to report all going well." 

In another letter he informed her that four men were work 
ing on the fence at the East Stable, teams and crew were busy 
on shell for the roads, one Negro was hoeing a grove, another 
was clipping a mule. Field day was coming up and the pavilion 
was installed on Mirror Lake terrace. The turkeys looked 
fine and all the chickens had been sold. What were her orders 
for installing the new laundry tubs? Would black-striped wall 
paper be in order for her bedroom? Henderson s Sunny South 
seed had arrived and a fox had been killed on the place that 
morning. 

Thus Mrs. Palmer in Chicago, in New York, London or 
Paris, kept track of every detail at The Oaks the executive in 
full command. She watched the housekeeping bills closely as 
well as the larger expenditures around the place. No one would 
do anything or pay a bill without consulting her first when she 
was within reach. As time went on she acquired the feeling 
that everyone was out to make a little profit on Mrs. Potter 



Back to Nature 242 

Palmer. Although too serious-minded to be subject to whims 
she thought nothing of having a lawn torn up and reseeded, 
or of changing her mind about what she wanted and pushing 
through an alternative plan, but she had a practical as well as 
an artistic sense where gardening was concerned. She was an 
inveterate walker and her gardeners never knew when she 
would sail into view and make knowing comments on their 
work. 

Chicago saw less of her after she had settled in Sarasota for 
the long winter seasons, but her interests were still deeply 
imbedded there and old friends visited her in the South. In the 
year she first went to Florida she offered a gold medal with a 
thousand-dollar prize for the best picture by a promising young 
artist, for although she no longer bought paintings her interest 
in art never flagged. At the same time she gave the Art Institute 
of Chicago a large number of her Impressionist paintings for 
an exhibition that lasted for several months and was regarded 
as perhaps the best showing of its kind in the country up to 
1910. In that same year she held an "art review" at the Palmer 
mansion, raising fourteen hundred dollars for the Chicago 
Woman s Club. 

She was interested to note that in London the Impressionists 
were already virtually out of date. When the post-Impression 
ists were shown at the Graf ton Gallery in 1910 the London 
Times commented: "Our dear old friends the Impressionists 
are already demodes, and a younger and more audacious and 
more modern generation has raised the dernier cri" But Mrs. 
Palmer let them alone, and Chicago was not altogether pre 
pared for the Armory Show that startled New York in 1913. 
The staff and students of the Art Institute staged a protest 
meeting as the work of the Cubists and Futurists headed west. 
They burned Matisse and Walter Pach in effigy. W. M. R. 
French, the director, left for California rather than cope with 
the Nude Descending a Stairway that was being discussed 
across the country. Meanwhile, traditional art was fetching 



242 Silhouette in Diamonds 

staggering prices on both sides of the Atlantic, with Henry E, 
Huntington paying $505,440 for Gainsborough s Blue Boy. 

There was much creative activity around the Art Institute 
and Chicago was astir with a fresh generation of gifted artists 
and writers. Many of them gathered at the Cliff Dwellers 
Club to discuss current trends in the arts. Hamlin Garland had 
established this club in a penthouse on top of Orchestra Hall. 
Theodore Dreiser, Susan Glaspell, Robert Herrick, Edith 
Wyatt and Edna Ferber were turning out books that were 
causing talk. Harriet Monroe established the magazine Poetry 
in 1912 and began publishing the work of Edgar Lee Masters, 
Vachel Lindsay and the early poems of Carl Sandburg. Willa 
Gather s O Pioneers was a sensation in 1913 and her book The 
Song of the Lark got its title from Jules Breton s painting in 
the Institute, widely reproduced in calendars throughout the 
country. 

Michigan Avenue, which Mrs. Palmer could remember as a 
garden spot, was now a parapet of buildings. The city was 
gracefully laid out with parks and sweeping boulevards. There 
were 300,000 pupils in the schools and two and a half million 
books were borrowed annually from the public libraries. The 
Chicago Opera Company was flourishing and the romance of 
its tenor Lucien Muratore and Lina Cavalieri, the Italian so 
prano who was popularly heralded as. the most beautiful 
woman in the world at the time, was exciting public interest 
in 1913. 

The Chocolate Soldier was the current rage. Irving Berlin 
was popularizing a new kind of jazz with "Alexander s Rag 
time Band." The tango and one-step were taking the place of 
the waltz and two-step. The turkey trot was intriguing the 
young and shocking the old. The hobble skirt was tripping 
up the emaciated and slinky woman who had succeeded the 
buxom Gibson girl. The sculptured look was now the vogue. 
Hats had shrunk because of the motorcar but black aigrettes 
and white ospreys had a following of their own and bandeaux 



Back to Nature 24$ 

bound the hair. Turbans and tunics, harem skirts and bead 
embroidery had taken firm hold, and Paul Poiret pushed the 
Oriental influence. At this point Mrs. Palmer retained a touch 
of the Queen Mary look. She never quite abandoned the regal 
air, the stiff coiffure, or the natural dignity that became her. 

Labor forces were steadily gaining ground in the community 
and in January, 1912, she offered the use of her home on Lake 
Shore Drive to August Belmont when she learned that the 
National Civic Federation was about to hold a meeting in 
Chicago. Belmont accepted her offer on condition that she act 
as hostess and temporary chairman in the current debate be 
tween capital and labor. The union men accepted, with the 
provision that they would not be expected to wear dress suits. 
They had read of the doings at the Potter Palmer mansion. 
But they also knew that Mrs. Palmer, for all her airs, had done 
a lot for the working woman. However, they walked into her 
home in a truculent way, determined not to be patronized. 
They looked around with some skepticism and there was the 
queen, warm, friendly and even casual in her manner. They 
could find no trace of condescension in her and left quite 
warmed by her common sense and natural hospitality. This 
was the year in which her old admirer, W. T. Stead, went 
down with the Titanic, as well as a number of her millionaire 
friends. 

She was at her house in Paris when the war broke out in the 
late summer of 1914. She was caught by surprise, like everyone 
else, but went to work immediately, personally packing boxes, 
crates and chests with papers, printed matter she had picked 
up on her travels, and her particular personal treasures. She 
had furs, etchings and household effects valued at $224,104 
put in storage in London and Paris before she left. This in 
cluded 533 pieces of porcelain and jade, as well as tapestries 
and carpets, a Veronese (which later turned out to be a fake), 
30 Whistler and 144 Pennell etchings, her favorite canopied 
satinwood bed with Wedgwood insets, silver, china, and in- 



244 Silhouette in Diamonds 

numerable objects of art. Her pearl and diamond dog collar, 
her most valuable tiara, and several of her more spectacular 
pieces of jewelry were in storage at Tiffany s Paris branch 
when the guns first roared. Leon Wannieck, the Polish dealer 
who had arranged many of her Oriental purchases, fled to the 
Spanish border with some of the jade and porcelain treasures 
that Mrs. Palmer had in the French capital. He brought them 
back at the close of the war. 

It was a period of confusion and excitement but material 
possessions had ceased to matter as the war became a grim 
reality. Mrs. Palmer was devoted to France and its people. 
Sadly she left her house on the Rue Fabert when Paris was 
evacuated and headed in her Rolls-Royce for Cherbourg. She 
later turned over the property to the American Red Cross as 
a home for chaplains. 

She left her car to rot on the dock and was back in the 
United States by the end of August. On her return to Chicago 
she went to work for the Red Cross, after a brief trip to 
Florida to see that things were moving ahead at The Oaks. 
Committees were waiting for her to steer them into action. 
"It s been a number of years now since I have been home in 
Chicago at Christmastime," she said, as she settled down to the 
work she did best organization in an emergency. Her house 
again became a center for civic activity. 

The war still seemed remote from the United States, but it 
was vivid to Mrs. Palmer, with her close European links and 
her fresh memories of what she had seen before she left. The 
Cantacuzene children had been brought home already from 
Russia for safety and now they were in the family circle, with 
Ida looking after them. The Prince soon was wounded in the 
fighting and in course of time both he and Julia returned to 
America and took up residence with the children at The 
Acacias. Now all of Mrs. Palmer s grandchildren played hap 
pily together at The Oaks and at camp, while she came and 
went and continued to develop her property. 



Back to Nature 24$ 

On December 16, 1915, she sent King Albert of Belgium 
1 1,700 francs for his stricken country, with an evocative note: 

MAJESTE: 

Will His Majesty be amiable enough to receive a small con 
tribution for His Christmas charities which I send in memory of 
His Majesty s noble and gracious mother who was always so 
gracious and kind to me. 

I venture to hope that His Majesty has not entirely forgotten 
the name of one whom he so greatly honored by His visit at New 
port during His American tour. I deeply sympathize with the 
gallant Belgian nation upon whom unnumbered and undeserved 
sorrows and horrors have fallen and together with all of the 
civilized world join in admiration of her devoted and patriotic 
stand led by Her Heroic King whom luckily I had the oppor 
tunity of appreciating before he was called to His high mission. 

In February, 1916, at a time when wartime benefits had be 
come the social gambit, Mrs. Palmer went over to Palm Beach 
and appeared at a ball there in all her pre-Florida glory, win 
ning the title of Queen of Jewels. She had plenty of competi 
tion that night. The jewels displayed at this ball became legend 
ary. Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont had a chain of perfectly matched 
diamonds, seven and a half feet long, which had belonged to 
Catherine the Great, as well as her string of Marie Antoinette s 
pearls. Mrs. Hamilton Rice wore pearls that were reputed to 
be worth half a million dollars and Mrs. Edward Wentworth s 
diamond necklace was world-famous. Mrs. Palmer s jewels did 
not compare in value with these but their aggregate effect and 
the manner in which she wore them always caused a stir in 
any gathering. She had great delicacy of line, along with her 
proud carriage, and Mrs. Carter H. Harrison, who never failed 
to toss bouquets at Mrs. Palmer, found the general effect that 
of a "queenly personality." 

Mrs. Palmer s family life and attitudes were clearly defined 
at Sarasota between 1914 and 1918. She had always known 



246 Silhouette in Diamonds 

how to create diversion within her own family circle and now 
she turned her attention to her small grandchildren as once she 
had done to their fathers, Honore and Potter. She was natural 
and affectionate with children and she made many plans for 
them. D Orsay was the liveliest of the younger generation, a 
boy who lived adventuresomely later on and used to surprise 
his grandmother s guests by leaping out at them from behind 
bushes. She would summon his governess and O Orsay, always 
amiable however much in disgrace, would be removed from 
the scene. 

She approved of the pioneering touch for small boys and 
encouraged them to enjoy the life at her camp. She had bought 
ponies for them to ride and brought a rancher from the Far 
West to teach them in the best manner. As in the case of her 
own two sons, she wanted them trained to do everything well. 
Although Honore and Potter had grown tired at times of being 
dressed up and carted over Europe like little princelings, their 
mother had always combined with the luxurious touch her 
own zeal for their physical well-being and hardihood. Now 
she gave her grandchildren a succession of pets, chose books 
for them and had them report to her on their reading. She 
encouraged them to use their toolboxes and to take a zestful 
interest in their riding, boating and the outdoor life in general 
The children did not stand in awe of her. They made Valen 
tines for grandmother, and wrote her penciled notes, all of 
which she saved, along with the script of a play Hiawatha that 
they staged by themselves. 

Little Honore wrote to her from Sarasota on January 30, 
1917: 

Dear Grandmother, The rabbits have not come yet. You said you 
wished me to remind you of this when I reached home. I thank 
you very much for the twenty-five dollars you sent me at Christ 
mas time. I have not spent it but you know how fond I am of 
books and I shall enjoy it very much later on. I send you 50 kisses 
and hope your cold is better now. Love from Honore. 



Back to Nature 247 

Three weeks later, on February 21, Honore wrote that the 
goats had come. They were pretty and he liked them better 
than his rabbits. He was looking forward to going to Myakka, 
where he would have a horse on which to ride after the cows. 
On his last visit he had forgotten in his hurry to say how much 
he had enjoyed himself. He begged her pardon and looked 
forward to seeing her on Friday. 

There were plenty of diversions at The Oaks and at the 
ranch for children and grownups alike. Mrs. Palmer at times 
went bird hunting. She was a good shot but gave this up when 
her health failed. Her family often did trap shooting in the 
morning and she would give valuable prizes, such as gold 
watches and chains, to the winners. She liked to talk to 
Charles W. Webb about the pelicans, cranes, kingfish, herons 
and even the flamingos that had haunted her property in 
earlier days. Her woods were alive with deer, quail, pheasant, 
wild turkeys, doves and hares. 

Both Webb and Blackburn knew her well and saw her 
under trying conditions at times. Both men thought she had 
stamina, charm and courage. She always seemed to Blackburn 
to be happy in a boat but he never saw her catch a fish. She 
often talked to him about streams in which she had fished in 
different parts of the world and she was interested in listening 
to tales of the many species in local watersthe tarpon and 
stone crabs, the groupers, oysters and shellfish of all kinds. 
She would drive out of her way to watch the turtles nosing 
around, and she ordered all the alligators in sight killed. She 
had a goldfish pool at The Oaks and could not understand why 
recurrent crops of her fish disappeared, until the water was 
drained and it was found that they were being eaten by cotton- 
mouth moccasins. She entered her speed boat Flying Fish in 
the local races. 

Thanks to her influence Sarasota pushed ahead as a popular 
resort. The arrival of the Ringling brothers a year after her 
descent brought another type of dynamics into the area. Mrs. 



248 Silhouette in Diamonds 

Palmer shared in many community endeavors and initiated 
some. She felt that a woman s organization was needed and 
she worked with Mrs. F. H. Guenther of Chicago for the 
establishment of the Woman s Club in 1913. She gave them 
quarters and loaned them two thousand dollars to get started. 
The club promoted park improvements, tree planting and sun 
dry plans to beautify the town. It supported the library, backed 
good causes and stimulated local enterprise. 

But Mrs. Palmer s civic consciousness did not obscure her 
realistic sense of values. Her last great scheme involved the 
development of Venice as an attractive resort and sporting 
center, with facilities for shooting, fishing, sea bathing, boat 
ing, golf, tennis, riding and motoring. She planned a hotel on 
the Gulf front with an adjoining colonnade quadrangle where 
tea and coffee would be served. Shops would abut the colon 
nade and a walk would lead to the orange grove, where fruit, 
straight off the trees, would be served in a pavilion. 

This was how Mrs. Palmer envisioned the resort, but when 
Charles Wellford Leavitt, a New York city planner and 
landscaping engineer, submitted his estimates to the Sarasota- 
Venice Company she was staggered by the costs. She pointed 
out to him that they would demand a greater outlay of capital, 
without any return, than even Mr. Flagler dispensed at Palm 
Beach. By this time she was somewhat disillusioned with com 
munity enterprise. 

Leavitt had roughly blocked out a railroad station, civic 
square, town hall, market, church, school, stores, golf club, 
yacht club, docks, commercial hotel, residential colony, farm 
colony, a sporting hotel, orange parkway paths, with golf 
course, canals, roads, streets and parks. He suggested H. O. 
Milliken, an architect who had lived in Italy, to supervise the 
building operation. 

His plans would work out charmingly, Mrs. Palmer wrote 
to him on February 26, 1916, if one had no regard for expense, 
but "we wanted to burden ourselves with as little work and 
expense as possible to get the best results." And why devote 



Back to Nature 249 

two and a half miles in the heart of her most valuable property 
to four civic centers? She went on: 

Why any civic center? We do not wish even one in our lovely 
countryside. Of what value are these civic centers and what help 
ful functions are they supposed to perform? ... As the only 
object of the Company is to sell its lands and close up its business, 
we do not wish to undertake social service or civic schemes in this 
territory where they are not needed and which would entail on 
us not only the primary expenses of creating and equipping them 
. . . but also the trouble and expense of administering and main 
taining them. ... I myself would not consider for a moment 
your proposal to assess my personal holdings north of the Bay, for 
the benefit of the winter resort improvements to the south, when 
no improvements whatever accrue to my land. This you demand, 
but it is quite out of the question. I would not allow it. 

But the determining factor, Mrs. Palmer added, was that they 
could sell their land in its primitive state at a much larger 
profit than he proposed when developed. In fact, some of her 
property on the waterfront, without improvements, had al 
ready fetched $875 an acre, giving her a profit of $800. Noth 
ing came of the resort plan. This was the year in which her 
beloved father died at the age of ninety-three, with all his 
surviving children around him. He had never seemed old to 
her, or to anyone else, and it was he who had proposed the 
Venice development. Shortly before his death there had been 
a great Christmas gathering of the Honores in Chicago to 
honor him. Twenty-two of his descendants assembled round 
the patriarch, who was still vigorous enough to go to his office 
and attend to his business interests. 

Funeral services were held at his home on Lincoln Parkway 
in Chicago. His five children walked out of the house behind 
the coffin, followed by his secretaries and a little group of 
servants. After his death Bertha never ceased to miss the small, 
old-fashioned gentleman with the white beard and bright eyes 
behind spectacles whose advice had always been of the utmost 
consequence to her. He had only to suggest something and she 



250 Silhouette in Diamonds 

would carry it through. Lockwood died soon afterward. 
Henry Hamilton Honore, Jr., had died in 1911, five years 
after their mother. The Honore family was breaking up. 

And now it was Bertha s turn. Her radiant health began 
to fail shortly before her father s death. For the next two years 
she fought a losing battle with cancer. None but her immediate 
family knew until near the end what ailed her. Although beset 
by pain and discomfort she never showed a sign and continued 
to work and direct operations until within a few weeks of her 
death. But a mastectomy in New York had brought home to 
her the knowledge that she did not have long to live. When 
she no longer toured her property and her workmen saw no 
more of her the story was whispered about in Sarasota that 
Mrs. Palmer was dying of cancer. But she kept her grip on 
things to the end. Four months before her death she was order 
ing New Orleans roses from Pasadena and Japanese hop vine 
seed from Floral Park, New York. Six weeks before the end 
she wrote to Guenther saying that whenever a cow was butch 
ered at the pasture for the commissary, she wanted to know 
about it and how much it brought. 

One of her last callers from the outside was Blackburn, who 
had seen her constantly in these final years. He had never 
heard her raise her voice or make a fuss about anything, and 
she looked as serene as ever, still beautiful but quite visibly 
wasted, behind the canopies of her Louis XVI bed. Her great 
dark eyes shone against the pallor of her face. 

"I will never go back to the ranch," she said. "I have gone 
there for the last time." 

Then she told Blackburn that she was leaving the ranch to 
her brother Adrian, and that she was hastening to get the boys 
paid off . Mrs. Palmer was calmly facing the thought of death. 

She died on May 5, 1918, within a day of the sixteenth 
anniversary of her husband s death. She was sixty-nine years 
old. Her sons and their wives, her sister Ida, her brother 
Adrian and the Cantacuzenes were with her. 

Sarasota went into mourning and Mayor G. W. Franklin 



Back to Nature 251 

lowered the city flag to half-mast. Her coffin was taken by 
horse and wagon to the railroad and her funeral was held from 
her home in Chicago. Hours before the cortege set out, Lake 
Shore Drive was jammed with people to whom she was more 
of a symbol than a person. All they could see was a simple 
funeral wreath on the front door that had opened so hospitably 
for so many years. Now she lay in the gallery where she had 
played so dazzling a role. A blanket of orchids from her sons 
covered her coffin. After it was in place Ernest Woods, her 
English butler who had been with her in London and Paris, 
came in with a wreath of orchids and placed it reverently at 
the foot of the coffin on behalf of the servantstheir last 
tribute to Mrs. Palmer, who had done them many kindnesses 
and had always shown interest in their personal affairs. All 
around were the Bertha Honore Palmer roses named after her. 

The service was read by the Rev. James S. Stone, rector of 
St. James s Episcopal Church, of which she had been a com 
municant. He was assisted by three acolytes, and the Imperial 
Quartet sang "Lead Kindly Light," "One Sweetly Solemn 
Thought" and "Sleep, Beloved, Sleep," Bertha s favorite 
hymns. The pallbearers were old friends Charles L. Hutchin- 
son, Martin A. Ryerson, Herman H. Kohlsaat, John S. Run- 
nells, James B. Waller, F. B. Tuttle, Watson F. Blair and 
Edward Blair. She was buried in a mausoleum at Graceland 
Cemetery beside Potter Palmer, and close to her parents and 
brothers. With her death an epoch in Chicago s history was 
closed. 

Mrs. Palmer had drawn up seven wills in her lifetime and her 
last showed that her husband s estate had more than doubled 
in value under her stewardship. She left close to twenty mil 
lion dollars, although fluctuating real estate values made it diffi 
cult to estimate the exact sum. The bulk of her estate was 
handed down in trust to her two sons, with complicated pro 
visions for her grandchildrens inheritance. This included the 
Palmer House, then valued at five million dollars and 150 pieces 
of property left by her husband. The mansion on Lake Shore 



252 Silhouette in Diamonds 

Drive, with all its contents, also went to Honore and Potter, 
who made an amicable division according to their tastes. At the 
time of her death she had five grandchildren and a sixth was 
born within the year. Honored family consisted of Potter 
D Orsay and Honore, II. Potter had four children in all- 
Potter Palmer, III, Bertha (later Mrs. Oakleigh L. Thorne), 
Gordon Palmer and Pauline (later Mrs. Arthur M. Wood). 

She left $100,000 each to her daughters-in-law, Grace 
Brown Palmer and Pauline Kohlsaat Palmer; real estate and 
personal possessions, including her canary diamond ring, to 
her niece Julia; and to Ida all the property she had acquired 
from the estate of their father and her interest in the Scammon 
trust, which he had created. Her personal estate was valued at 
$1,750,000. Her jewels were divided equally between her sons, 
to be given to their wives, except for some individual bequests. 
It was noted that a princess and a kitchen maid both figured 
in her will. Her Myakka Lake property went to her brother 
Adrian and other land in Florida was placed in trust with 
him for the benefit of her brother Nathaniel and her sister Ida. 
Adrian had always given her counsel in banking affairs, just 
as her brother Lockwood, a Circuit Court judge, had advised 
her in legal matters. The Honores were a close-knit family and 
the outside world knew little of their corporate operations. 

A total of $515,000 was bequeathed to various charitable 
organizations. Mrs. Palmer specifically asked her sons to select 
a group of her paintings equal in value to $100,000 to give to 
the Art Institute of Chicago. Her legacies to her servants ag 
gregated $30,000 and she made additional provision for former 
employees serving their countries in the First World War. 

Mrs. Palmer s Myakka Lake land today is part of a state 
park. In 1934 a large acreage was bought from Adrian C. 
Honore s estate for this purpose. Immediately afterward 
Honore and Potter donated 9,200 acres in memory of their 
mother. They also gave the Sarasota Memorial Hospital an 
X-ray machine, and a Mrs. Potter Palmer memorial room 
perpetuates her name at the hospital. 



Back to Nature 253 

Shortly before her death Hctmptoris Magazine summed up 
Mrs. Palmer s place in the sun in an editorial entitled "The 
Social Leader of Chicago." The writer pointed out that in the 
course of a busy life she had found time to maintain her 
supremacy in Chicago, to establish a firm social position in 
London and in Paris, to encourage and take an active part in 
many charitable and philanthropic movements, and to manage 
her big estate with all the acumen of a well-trained business 
man. Hamptoris attributed the secret of her success to a rare 
gift for diplomacy and went on: 

When men have it they are called diplomats; when women have 
it they are called tactful. Occasionally there is a woman who pos 
sesses it in such superlative degree and quality that she is admitted 
to the ranks of the diplomats. All who know her admit un 
grudgingly that Bertha Honore Palmer (Mrs. Potter Palmer) is a 
diplomat. ... If Mrs. Palmer were a man she would make an 
ideal ambassador. The same qualities that have made her so suc 
cessful as a mother, as a wife, as a social queen and as a business 
woman, would make her a successful ambassador. She is demo 
cratic, cordial, frank, yet never says a thing she does not want to 
say and seldom a thing she should not say. Her mental vision 
extends beyond the present moment, and her keen insight into 
human nature enables her to tell far in advance what effect a cer 
tain speech or a certain act will have. Her poise is perfect. 

Few knew more of the private lives and hidden scandals of 
Chicago s leading families than Mrs. Palmer. She had observed 
them closely for nearly half a century and had watched their 
climb to wealth and fame. But she kept her own counsel and 
never spread ill tidings. Those who knew her best recalled 
that hers had been an exceptional life from start to finish. For 
tune had always been on her side. She had grown up in a 
harmonious home and had enjoyed the fruits of love and 
appreciation. A marriage that had looked at first like a merce 
nary alliance had turned into a solid, lifelong partnership. Her 
husband had worshiped her and had never tired of paying 



254 Silhouette in Diamonds 

tribute to her. None could altogether fathom her feeling for 
him. Tales that she felt she had outgrown him and treated him 
badly on her upward climb plagued her from time to time. 
But she suffered the penalties of living in a glass cage and 
could scarcely" escape the criticism that whirled around so 
dominant a social figure. She was flattered, admired, respected, 
and at times attacked or jeered at on both sides of the Atlantic 
but in the end she usually had her way. Her parents, sister, 
brothers, husband and sons loved and admired her, so that to 
all outward appearances her life seemed happy and fulfilled. 

However, her buffered background was not the total answer. 
She was described as "the most elegant American woman of 
her day" but Bertha Honore might have been a driving force 
in any generation or social stratum. She had strength and pur 
pose, ambition and intelligence. Her decisions and choices were 
apt to be soundly made and she grew in political wisdom. She 
struck out for the best wherever she saw it and moved un 
swervingly to her goal. Her sister Ida, who knew her from 
early childhood, considered her ardent in spirit, a woman who 
never exhausted her forces on small things but let the fires of 
her life burn deep. 

It was her good fortune that she seemed immune to crippling 
circumstance until her fatal illness set in. Thus she was able 
to enjoy life to the full. She was no Hetty Green with her 
millions but spent freely where she felt her money would do 
the most good. After her husband s death she looked more 
closely to returns. If she seemed a hedonist to many she bal 
anced her personal expenditure with zeal for the public wel 
fare. Her fixed ambition to push Chicago ahead controlled her 
actions for the better part of her lifetime. Those who thought 
her a schemer intent only on her own aggrandizement mis 
understood her true nature, although unquestionably she en 
joyed her distinction to the full. In the end this citizen of the 
world was known quite simply as Mrs. Potter Palmer of Chi 
cagoa label that summed up a legend and a way of life. 



+ Motes 



Chapter i A City in Flames 

Reminiscences attributed to Mrs. Potter Palmer, Chicago Historical 
Society. Alexander Frear, "The Full Story of the Great Fire: Narrative 
of an Eye Witness," New York World, October, 1871. Contemporary 
clippings in Palmer papers, Chicago Historical Society. Princess Can- 
tacuzene to author. Chicago Times-Herald, December 3, 1899. Chicago 
Herald- American, March 24, 1940. Robert Allen Cromie, The Great 
Chicago Fire. Henry Justin Smith, Chicago s Great Century. Emmett 
Dedmon, Fabulous Chicago. Ernest Poole, Giants Gone. Bessie Louise 
Pierce, A History of Chicago, Vol. II. Louise de Koven Bowen, 
Growing Up With a City. William Carnes Kendrick, Reminiscences 
of Old Louisville, ms., New York Public Library. Kathleen Jennings, 
Louisville s First Families. Honore Palmer to author. Palmer, Honore, 
Grant Allied Families, The American Historical Company, 1929. Rem 
iniscences of Mrs. Frederick Dent Grant, Palmer family papers. W. P. 
Greene, ed., The Green River Country from Bowling Green to Evans- 
ville, 1898. Frederika Bremer, America of the Fifties. Wincester Hall 
to Mrs. Potter Palmer, February 25, 1898, Palmer family papers. 

Chapter 2 Merchant Prince 

Records of Visitation Convent, Georgetown, 1865-1867. Bessie 
Louise Pierce, A History of Chicago, Vol. II. Milo Milton Quaife, 
Chicago and the Old Northwest, 1673-183$. Louise de Koven Bowen, 
Growing Up With a City. Christian Science Monitor, August 24, 1916. 
Mary Hastings Bradley, Old Chicago. Ernest Poole, Giants Gone. 
Emmett Dedmon, Fabulous Chicago. Augusta Prescott, 1893, Palmer 
family papers. Princess Cantacuzene to author. Chicago Tribune, July 



256 Silhouette in Diamonds 

29, 1870, and May 5, 1902. New York Daily Graphic, October 24, 1874. 
Chicago Times-Herald, December 3, 1899. Chicago Her aid- American, 
March 17 and 24, 1940. Hubert Howe Bancroft, The Book of the Fair. 
Ruth McKenna, Chicago: These First Hundred Years. 

Chapter 3 The Innkeeper s Wife 

Potter Palmer to Charles B. Farwell, December 2, 1889, Chicago His 
torical Society. Potter Palmer to Charles Leland, August 26, 1876, 
Chicago Historical Society. Lady DufTus Hardy, Through Cities and 
Prairie Lands. Sir John Lang, America in 1876. Rudyard Kipling, From 
Sea to Sea: Letters of Travel. James Fullarton Muirhead, The Land of 
Contrasts: A Briton s View of His American Kin. Joseph Kirkland, 
The Story of Chicago. Chicago Magazine of Fashion, Music & Home 
Reading, August, 1875. Undated note signed by Tallmadge Ballard, 
Chicago Historical Society. Bessie Louise Pierce, A History of Chicago, 
Vol. III. Princess Cantacuzene to author. Chicago Times-Herald, De 
cember 3, 1899. Chicago Tribune, May 5, 1902, and October 21, 1945. 
New York Times, March n, 1950. Chaperone in Herald American 
(Chicago Weekly), March and April, 1940. David Lester, "His Monu 
ment to Love," Coronet, February, 1957. Frank L. Davis, "An Amer 
ican Describes the Palmer Castle," Illinois Society of Architects Bulle 
tin, JanuaryFebruary, 1947. George William Sheldon, Artistic Coun 
try-Seats. Aline B. Saarinen, The Proud Possessors. Mrs. John A. 
Logan, Reminiscences of a Soldier s Wife. Julian Ralph, Harper s 
Chicago and the World s Fair. Henry Justin Smith, Chicago s Great 
Century. Ernest Poole, Giants Gone. John Drury, Old Chicago Houses. 
Wayne Andrews, Architecture, Ambition and Americans. 

Chapter 4 Mrs. Palmer Invades Europe 

Mrs, Potter Palmer, Addresses and Reports of Mrs. Potter Palmer. 
London Times, July 13, 1891. New York World, July 14 and 26, 1891. 
New York Sunday World, July 26, 1891. Chicago Evening News, 
October 7, 1891. Reminiscences of Mrs. Frederick Dent Grant, Palmer 
family papers. Potter Palmer to Charles L. Hutchinson, May 16, 1891, 
the Newberry Library. Mrs. Palmer s addresses to board of lady man 
agers of Columbian Exposition, April 8, 1891, September 2, 1891, and 
October 18, 1892. Grace M. Dodge to Mrs. Palmer, February 19, 1892, 
Chicago Historical Society. Thomas M. Waller to Mrs. Palmer, 
November 17, 1891, Chicago Historical Society. Mrs. Isabella Beecher 
Hooker to Mrs. Palmer, May 8 and June 17, 1891, Chicago Historical 



Notes 257 

Society. Mrs. Palmer to Mrs. Hooker, July 31, 1891, Chicago Historical 
Society. Mrs. John A. Logan to Mrs. Palmer, October 16, 1891, Chicago 
Historical Society. Julia Ward Howe to Mrs. Palmer, July 10, 1891, 
Chicago Historical Society. Mary Lockwood to Mrs. Palmer, Septem 
ber 25, 1891, Chicago Historical Society. Theodore Stanton to Mrs. 
Palmer, December 14, 1891, Chicago Historical Society. George Healy 
to Mrs. Palmer, December 17, 1892, Chicago Historical Society. Susan 

B. Anthony to Mrs. Palmer, April n, 1893, Chicago Historical Society. 
Mrs. Margaret F. Sullivan to Mrs, Palmer, December n, 1891, Chicago 
Historical Society. Sara T. Hallowell to Mrs. Palmer, August 22 and 
November 10, 1891, Chicago Historical Society. Mrs. Palmer to Miss 
Josephine P. Cleveland, July 12, 1892, Chicago Historical Society. 
Hubert Howe Bancroft, The Book of the Fair. Mrs. Palmer to Miss 
Josephine P. Cleveland, August 22 and November 10, 1891, Chicago 
Historical Society. Julia Ward Howe to Mrs. Palmer, July 10, 1891, 
Chicago Historical Society. Lloyd Lewis and Henry Justin Smith, 
Chicago, The History of Its Reputation. Bessie Louise Pierce, A 
History of Chicago, Vol. III. Princess Cantacuzene to author. Mrs. 
Palmer s address in Manufacturers Building, World s Fair, October 
21, 1892. 

Chapter 5 World s Columbian Exposition 

Columbian Exposition: Dedication Ceremonies Memorial. Mrs. Pot 
ter Palmer s address at opening, May i, 1893, and at closing, October 
31, 1893, Program, Hospitality and Ceremonies, Woman s Building, 
Chicago Historical Society. A History of the World s Columbian 
Exposition, 4 vols. Mary Kavariaugh Oldham Eagle, ed., The Congress 
of Women Held in the Woman s Building, World s Columbian Exposi 
tion. Ripley Hitchcock, The Art of the World Illustrated in the Paint 
ings, Statuary, and Architecture of the World s Columbian Exposition. 
The Columbian Exposition Album. Maud Howe Elliott, ed., Arts and 
Handicrafts in the Woman s Building of the World s Columbian Ex 
position. Chaperone, Chicago Her aid- American (Chicago Weekly), 
March 3 and April 7, 1940. New York American, June 24, 1893. San 
Francisco Chronicle, June n, 1893. Indianapolis News, June 14, 1893. 
Rochester Democrat Chronicle, June 15, 1893. Pittsburgh Commercial 
Gazette, June 15, 1893. Carmen de Diaz to Mrs. Palmer, September 12, 
1893, Chicago Historical Society. Mrs. John A. Logan to Mrs. Palmer, 
July 3 and August 2, 1893, Chicago Historical Society. Henry H. Smith 
to Mrs. Palmer, September 20, 1893, Chicago Historical Society. Ida 

C. Craddock to Mrs, Palmer, August 13, 1893, Chicago Historical 



jZj-ff Silhouette in Diamonds 

Society. Sara T. HaUoweU to Mrs. Palmer, September 2, 1893, Art 
Institute of Chicago. Marian Deering to Mrs. Palmer, August 29, 1893, 
Art Institute of Chicago. Anders Zorn to Mrs. Palmer, November 24, 
1893, Art Institute of Chicago. Undated notation by Eugene Field, 
Palmer papers, Chicago Historical Society. Princess Cantacuzene to 
author. Carter H. Harrison, Stormy Years: The Autobiography of 
Carter H. Harrison. Julian Ralph, Harper s Chicago and the World s 
Fair. Lloyd Lewis and Henry Justin Smith, Chicago, The History of 
Its Reputation. Henry Justin Smith, Chicago s Great Century. Ernest 
Poole, Giants Gone. Emmett Dedmon, Fabulous Chicago. Hubert 
Howe Bancroft, The Book of the Fair. Russell Lynes, The Taste- 
makers. Chicago Inter-Oceaan, June 10, 1893, and other contemporary 
newspaper clippings for the summer of 1893. 

Chapter 6 The Nation s Hostess 

Julian Ralph, "Our Great West," Harper s Magazine, 1893. Frederic 
Whyte, The Life of W. T. Stead, Vol. II. W. T. Stead, If Christ Came 
to Chicago! W. T. Stead to Mrs. Potter Palmer, January 30, 1894, 
Chicago Historical Society. W. T. Stead, "My First Visit to America," 
Review of Reviews, January- June, 1894. John P. Altgeld to Mrs. 
Palmer, March n, 1894, and October 6, 1895, Altgeld papers, Chicago 
Historical Society. Judge H. M. Shepard to Mrs. Palmer, December 
29, 1894, Chicago Historical Society. Mrs. Penfield to Mrs. Palmer, 
December 29, 1894, Chicago Historical Society. Mrs. Palmer to Franklin 
MacVeagh, December, 1895, Chicago Historical Society. Joseph Medill 
to Mr. and Mrs. Potter Palmer, April 6 (year unidentified), Chicago 
Historical Society. Mrs. Palmer to Senator William Lindsay, January 
28, 1896, Chicago Historical Society. Telegrams and correspondence 
on Potter Palmer appointment in Chicago Historical Society. John C. 
Black to Daniel S. Lament, January 28, 1896, Library of Congress. 
George W. Ochs to President Cleveland, February 3, 1896, Chicago 
Historical Society. James H. Eckels to Mrs. Palmer, February 4, 1896, 
Chicago Historical Society. Joseph Medill to Mrs. Palmer, February 
5, 1896, Chicago Historical Society. Elite, July 18, 1896. Chicago Daily 
Journal, May 6, 1918. Honore Palmer to author. Reminiscences of Mrs. 
Frederick Dent Grant, Palmer family papers. Princess Cantacuzene to 
author. Princess Cantacuzene, My Life Here and There. Julian Street, 
Abroad at Home. Bessie Louise Pierce, A History of Chicago, Vol. III. 
Frederick Francis Cook, Bygone Days in Chicago. John William 
Tebbel, An American Dynasty. Emmett Dedmon, Fabulous Chicago. 
Ernest Poole, Giants Gone. Lloyd Lewis and Henry Justin Smith, 



Notes 



259 



Chicago, The History of Its Reputation. Ray Ginger, Altgeld s Amer 
ica, Harry Hansen, The Chicago. 

Chapter 7 Conquest of Newport 

Elite, February and September, 1896, and January, 1897. John Hay 
to Mrs. Potter Palmer, June 24, 1897, Chicago Historical Society. 
Maurice Joossens to Mrs. Palmer, June i and 3, 1898, Chicago His 
torical Society. Cardinal Gibbons to Mrs. Palmer, June 7, 1898, Chicago 
Historical Society. Henry White to Mrs. Palmer, March 29, 1898, 
Chicago Historical Society. Chicago Journal, May 6, 1918. New York 
World, June 12, 19, and July 24, 1898. New York Herald, June 5 and 
July 31, 1898. Mrs. Carter H. Harrison, Chicago Herald-Examiner, 
February 19, 1922. Princess Cantacuzene to author. Princess Cantacu 
zene, My Life Here and There. Gordon Palmer to author. Comment 
on interview with Pope in Palmer papers, Chicago Historical Society. 
New York papers, September 26 and 27, 1899. Henry James, The 
American Scene. Mrs. John King Van Rensselaer, Newport Our Social 
Capital. Cleveland Amory, The Last Resorts. Elizabeth Eliot, Heiresses 
and Coronets. Maud Howe Elliott, My Cousin F. Marion Crawford. 

Chapter 8 Art Collector 

Jean RafFaelli to Mrs. Potter Palmer, 1896, Art Institute of Chicago. 
Daniel Catton Rich, Half a Century of American Art; ed., Catalogue 
of a Century of Progress Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture Lent 
from American Collections; and "Chicago Pioneered in Paintings, * 
Vogue, August, 1944. Stephen Gwynn, Claude Monet and His Garden. 
Charles Durand-Ruel, record of Mrs. Palmer s art purchases from 
Durand-Ruel et Cie, Paris. Catalogues and pamphlets in Art Institute 
of Chicago. Benjamin K. Smith, Chicago art dealer, to author. Oliver 
W. Larkin, Art and Life in America. Margaret Breuning, Mary Cas- 
satt. Malcolm Vaughan, "Mary Cassatt, Pioneer Woman Painter," 
Reader s Digest, November, 1959. Charles Fabens Kelley, "Chicago: 
Record Years," Art News, summer of 1952. T.B.H. in Art News, 
November, 1947. Maud Howe Elliott, John Elliott: The Story of an 
Artist. Hans Huth, Gazette des Beaux Arts, April, 1946. Sara T. Hallo- 
well to Mrs. Palmer, December 30, 1892, and March 17, 1893, Art 
Institute of Chicago. Mrs. Palmer to Charles L. Hutchinson, January 
27, March 15, April 27 (years unidentified), the Newberry Library. 
Reminiscences of Mrs. Frederick Dent Grant, Palmer family papers. 
Princess Cantacuzene and Honore Palmer to author. Notes correcting 



260 Silhouette in Diamonds 

picture titles, Art Institute of Chicago. Henry Justin Smith, Chicago s 
Great Century. Ernest Poole, Giants Gone. Lionello Venturi, Les 
Archives de Vlmpressionnisme. Daniel Catton Rich to author. Rene 
Huyghe, "Simple Histoire de 2,414 Faux Corots," Amour <fArt, April, 
1936. David Rosen and Henri Marceau, "A Study in the Use of Photo 
graphs in the Identification of Paintings," Technical Studies in the Field 
of the Fine Arts, Boston: Fogg Museum, October, 1937. Chicago 
Daily News, February 4, 1950. Chicago Tribune, February 10, 1950. 

Chapter 9 The Paris Exposition 

Claire de Pratz, "Reine de Chicago," La Fronde, May 10, 1900. 
Womanhood, July 1890. Vance Thompson, "Paris, City of Beautiful 
Women," Cosmopolitan, November, 1902 April, 1903. Adolphe Cohn, 
"The Streets of Paris," Cosmopolitan, November, 1902 April, 1903. 
Walter Germain Robinson, "The American Colony in Paris," Cos 
mopolitan, October, 1900. "Paris Fancies and Fashion," The Gentle 
woman, May 12, 1900. Jean Phillipe Worth, A Century of Fashion. 
Two undated letters written by Mrs. Palmer in the summer of 1900 
from Belgium to her mother, Mrs, Henry H. Honore, Chicago His 
torical Society. Mrs. Potter Palmer to Mrs. John W. Mackay, late 
1900, Chicago Historical Society. New York Times, May 7, 1918. New 
York World, March 3, 1901. Chicago Tribune, May 5, 1902, and 
February 19, 1950. Mrs. Carter H. Harrison, Chicago Herald-Examiner 
(Chicago Weekly), April 7, 1940. Munsey s Magazine, October, 1900. 
Julia L. Cole to Mrs. Palmer, late 1900, Chicago Historical Society. 
William Gardner Hale to Mrs. Palmer, late 1900, Chicago Historical 
Society. Chicago Journal, May 6, 1918. Mrs. Palmer to Judge Lambert 
Tree, spring of 1901, the Newberry Library. Potter Palmer to Franklin 
MacVeagh, June 23, 1899, Chicago Historical Society. Mrs. Palmer to 
Charles L. Hutchinson, October 9, 1905, the Newberry Library. Elite, 
January 28 and March 25, 1905. Art sales to Mrs. Palmer, Raoul Heil- 
bronner catalogues, Library of Congress. Honore Palmer to author. 
Princess Cantacuzene, My Life Here and There. Ruth McKenna, 
Chicago: These First Hundred Years. Douglas and Elizabeth Rigby, 
Lock, Stock and Barrel. Sonia Keppel, Edwardian Daughter. Virginia 
Sackville-West, The Edwardians. The Book?nan, June, 1908. 

Chapter 10 Edwardian England 

New York World, June 16 and 23, 1907. Chicago Record-Herald, 
March 31 and September 8, 1907. New York American, March 17, 



Notes 261 

1907. Princess Cantacuzene and Honore Palmer to author. Princess 
Cantacuzene, My Life Here and There. Sir Sidney Lee, King Edward 
VIL Shaw Desmond, The Edwardian Story. Dorothy Constance Peel, 
A Hundred Wonderful Yean. Virginia Cowles, Gay Monarch. Con- 
suelo Vanderbilt Balsan, The Glitter and the Gold. Sir Frederick Pon- 
sonby, Recollections of Three Reigns. Lillie Langtry, The Days I Knew. 
Frances, Countess of Warwick, Life s Ebb and Flow. Daisy, Princess 
of Pless, What 1 Left Unsaid. Princess Catherine Radziwill, It Really 
Happened, The Royal Marriage Market of Europe and Those I Re 
member. Cecil Beaton, The Glass of Fashion. James Laver, Edwardian 
Promenade. 

Chapter 1 1 Chaliapin Sings for Mrs. Palmer 

Feodor Ivanovitch Chaliapine, Pages from My Life. Princess Can 
tacuzene to author. New York Times, November 3, 1907. New York 
World, June 2, 19 and 30, 1907, Chicago Record-Herald, September 
9, 13, 14, 15, 1907. Chicago Inter-Ocean, September 17, 1910. Chicago 
Herald-Examiner, March 17, 1940, Hampton s Magazine, October, 
1911. Sir Lionel Cust, King Edward VII and His Court. Lady Gwen 
dolen Cecil, Life of Robert Marquis of Salisbury. Sir Sidney Lee, 
King Edward VIL Virginia Cowles, The Gay Monarch. Andre 
Maurois, The Edwardian Era. Frances, Countess of Warwick, Life s 
Ebb and Flow. Daisy, Princess of Pless, What I Left Unsaid. Sir 
Frederick Ponsonby, Recollections of Three Reigns. 

Chapter iz Back to Nature 

"The Social Leader of Chicago," Hampton s Magazine, October, 
1911. Gordon Palmer, Honore Palmer and Princess Cantacuzene to 
author. Princess Cantacuzene, My Life Here and There. Virginia Robie, 
"The Oaks, Osprey on Little Sarasota Bay," The House Beautiful, 
January, 1920. A. B. Edwards, "History," The Look-Out, April i, 
1960. Chapcrone, Chicago Herald-Examiner (Chicago Weekly), 
April 17, 1940. Reminiscences of Mrs. Frederick Dent Grant, Palmer 
family papers. New York Times, May 7 and 18, 1918. Chicago 
Tribune, May 18, 1918, October 21, 1945, and August 26, 1914. Chi 
cago Daily Journal, May 6, 1918. Chicago Herald-Examiner, March 17, 
1940. Mrs. Carter H. Harrison, Chicago Herald-Examiner, February 
19, 1922. James Lavcr, Edwardian Promenade. Henry Justin Smith, 
Chicago s Great Century. Charles Fabens Kelley, "Chicago: Record 
Years," Art News, summer of 1952. The Spur, September i, 1916. 



262 Silhouette in Diamonds 

Recollections of A, B. Edwards, A. E. Blackburn, Charles W. Webb, 
Captain Frank Roberts, Dr. Joseph Halton, Benjamin H. Russell, Mrs. 
Walter J. Bryan and Mrs. Ralph Caples, all of Sarasota, as told to 
author. Information supplied by Miss Louise K. Higel and Mrs. Doris 
Davis, of Sarasota. Karl H. Grismer, The Story of Sarasota. Sarasota 
Herald, November 29, 1936. Mrs. Palmer to Albert Blackburn, April 
14, 1914; Mrs. Palmer to V. A. Saunders, June 22, 1914; Mrs. Palmer 
to F. H. Guenther, July 10, 1914; William F. Prentice to Mrs. Palmer, 
September 5, 1915; Mrs. Palmer to Charles Wellford Leavitt, February 
26, 1911. Mrs. Palmer s Sarasota correspondence, Sarasota County His 
torical Commission. 



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GREGORY, ADDIE HIBBARD: A Great-Grandmother Remembers. Chi 
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GWYNN, STEPHEN: Claude Monet and His Garden. New York: The 

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HANSEN, HARRY: The Chicago. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1942. 
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HARRISON, CARTER H.: Stormy Years: The Autobiography of Carter 

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HOWE, JULIA WARD: Reminiscences, i$ 19-1899. Boston: Houghton 

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JENNINGS, KATHLEEN: Louisville s First Families* Louisville: The Stand 
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266 Silhouette in Diamonds 

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Index 



Abercorn, Duchess of, 6 1 
Abcrcorn, Duke of, 185 
Aberdeen, Countess of, 61, 74, 84 
Addams, Jane, 45, 105, 107, no, 165 
Ade, George, 160 
Albani, Emma, 162 
Albemarle, Earl of, 1 95 
Albert I of Belgium, 126, 152-133, 

245 

Alexander, George, 1 98 
Alexandra of England, 169, 190, 195, 

196, 202, 208, 210, 211, 2l8, 
219, 221 

Alfonso XIII of Spain, 194,, 214 

Allen, Viola, 188 

Altgeld, John P., 106, 107 

Arnato, Pasquale, 210 

Andersen, H. C., 152-1 53 

Anthony, Susan B., 92 

Antrim, Earl of, 213 

Armory Show, 241 

Armour, Philip D., 51, 87, 105, 122, 

177, 188 
Arnold, Matthew, 61 

Art Institute of Chicago, 148, 158- 

159, 241, 242, 252 
Ashley, Edwina, 195 
Asquith, Herbert H., 203 
Astor, John Jacob, 52 
Astor, Mrs. John Jacob, 1 9 1 
Astor, Mrs. William, 127, 128, 129, 

131, i33 ? 135. 137, 

178, 191 

Astor, William Waldorf, 2 1 o 
Atholl, Duke of, 212 
Atwood, Charles B., 78 

Balfour, Arthur, 218 
Ballard, Artie, 41 
Balsan, Mme Jacques, 214 
Barrett, Lawrence, 162 



Barrie, James M., 219 

Barrymore, Maurice, 162 

Bartholdi, Frederic, 72 

Bartlctt, Frederick Clay, 160 

Bartlett, Paul W., 78 

Barton, Clara, 67 

Beach, Mrs. H. H., 84 

Beatty, David, 118 

Beatty, Ethel Field, 118, 190, 192 

Beau Brummell, 188 

Bedford-Fenwick, Mrs., 6r, 84 

Beecham, Henry, 208 

Beerbohm, Max, 219 

Belle w, Kyrle, 162 

Belloc, Hilairc, 2 1 9 

Bclmont, August, 129, 190, 243 

Belmont, O. H. P., 130, 135 

Belmont, Mrs. O. H. P., 129, 130, 

138, 245 
Bennett, Arnold, 2 1 9 
Beresford, J, D., 219 
Bernhardt, Sarah, 38, 162 
Bitter, Karl T. F., 78 
Black, John C., 122 
Blackburn, Albert, 224, 231, 235, 

236, 238, 247, 250 
Blaine, James G. 3 59 
Blair, Edward, 251 
Blair, Watson F., 251 
Blanc, Baroness de, 171 
Blatchford, Robert, 203 
B16riot, Louis, 218 
Bogclot, Mme, 61-62 
Bonheur, Rosa, 177 
Booth, Edwin, 38, 162 
Booth, John Wilkes, 1 1 
Borie, A. E., 36 
Bowcn, Louise de Koven, 7, 46, no, 

216 

Brassey, Lady, 6 1 
Brazza, Countess di, 93 



269 



270 



Index 



Bremer, Fredrika, 1 2 

Breton, Jules, 242 

Brin, Baroness de, 171 

Brooke, Lady, 58 

Browning, Robert, 6 1 , 219 

Bryan, William Jennings, 123, 124, 

145 

Buckingham, Kate, 160 
Buffalo Bill, 38, 92 
Bull, Ole, 161 

Burdett-Coutts, Baroness, 61 
Burgstaller, Alois, 137 
Burnham, Daniel, 71, 77, 97 
Butt, Clara, 198 
Byng, Robert Cecil, 205 

Caine, Hall, 2 1 9 

Calve", Emma, 161 

Campbell, Colin, 1 1 8 

Campbell, Mrs. Patrick, 162, 210 

Candler, J. W., 71 

Cantacuzene, Bertha, 201 

Cantacuzene, Ida, 202 

Cantacuzene, Julia Grant, 48, 49-50, 
51, 63, 96-97, 109, 117, 123, 
125, 126, 133, 135, 138, 140, 
I4itf-j 175, 183, 184, 193, 199, 

20O, 2OI-2O2, 208-2O9, 217, 
225, 244, 252 

Cantacuzene, Michel, 142$., 184, 

201-202, 217, 244 
Carnegie, Andrew, 177 
Carnot, M. Sadi, 61 
Carnot, Mme M. Sadi, 61 
Carr, John, 1 4 
Carr, Mary Dorsey, 14, 15 
Carse, Matilda B., 45 
Carter, Leslie, 87 
Caruso, Enrico, 188, 198 
Cassatt, A. J., 154 
Cassatt, Mary, 63, 75-76, 150, 151 , 

186, 230 

Cassel, Ernest, 194, 195, 218 
Castellane, Boni de, 53, 171 
Gather, Willa, 242 
Caton, Arthur J., 1 16 
Caton, Mrs. Arthur J., 113, 116, 188 
Caton, John D., 105, 108 
Cavalieri, Lina, 242 
Cazin, Jean Charles, 149, 154, 155, 

186 
Chaliapin, Feodor Ivanovich, 206- 

209 
Charity Ball, 28, 57, 111-112, i79> 

185, 188, 215-216,217 
Charles, Prince (Stuart), 213 
Chatfield-Taylor, Hobart, 89-90 
Chatfield, Wayne, 117 



Chesterton, Gilbert K., 219 

Chetlain, Mrs. A. L., 188 

Chicago Evening Post, 2 1 7 

Chicago fire, I ff., 185 

Chicago Herald-Examiner, 215 

Chicago Inter-Ocean, 51, 53, 88, 

215, 217 

Chicago Record, 160 
Chicago Times-Herald, 160, 217 
Chicago Tribune, 20, 31, 224, 230 
Choiseul, Marquise de, 171 
Christian, Princess, 57, 60, 6 1, 196 
Churchill, Randolph, 1 90 
Churchill, Lady Randolph, 141, 190, 

204 

Churchill, Winston, 204 
Cleary, Mother M. Augustine, 23 
Clemenceau, Georges, 149 
Clemenceau, Mme Georges, 171 
Clementine, Princess of Belgium, 

172, 173, 174 
Cleveland, Grover, 45, 82, 83, 107, 

122 

Cleveland, Mrs. Grover, 84 
Cobb, Henry Ives, 53, 56 
Codman, Henry Sargent, 77 

Colebrooke, Thomas Edward, 205 

Columbian Exposition, 5$ff.j 82 #., 
1 06, 148 

Comstpck, Anthony, 95 

Corelli, Marie, 2 1 9 

Corn wallis- West, George, 204 

Cornwallis-West, Mrs. George, 204 

Corot, J. B. C., 148, 154, 155, 156- 
157 

Couzins, Phoebe W., 67, 68, 71, 93 

Craddock, Ida C., 95-96 

Craven, Countess of, 204 

Crerar, John, 117 

Cromer, Lord, 138-139 

Cunard, Mrs. Ernest, 209-210 

Curzon, Lady, 204 

Curzon, Lord, 1 18, 204 

Cushman, Charlotte, 162 

Cust, Lionel, 214 

Custer, George A., 34 

Custer, Mrs. George A., 36 

Damrosch, Walter, 161 
D Arcy, see Dorsey 
Darrow, Clarence, 108 
D Auvergne, Charles de la Tour, 

214 

Davis, Erwin, 152 
Davis, Florence, 204 
Davis, John H., 204 
Debs, Eugene V., 107, 108 
Deering, Mrs. Charles, 96 



Index 



277 



Degas, H. G. E., 75-76, 148, *49, 

151, I54> 230 

De Gray, Lady, 207, 208, 210 
Delacroix, Eugene, 148, 156 
De Lastcyrie, Louis, 214 
De Loma, Senora Dupuy, 84 
Del Val, Merry, 1 4 1 
Del Vallc, Consuclo Iznaga, 1 93 
De Pachmann, Vladimir, 161 
Depew, Chauncey, 79, 133, 145 
De Pratz, Claire, 167-168 
De Reszke, Edouard, 161, 210 
De Reszke, Jean, 38, 161, 210 
Deslys, Gaby, 1 98 
Devonshire, Duchess of, 205 
Devonshire, Duke of, 218 
Dexter, Wirt, 117 
Dino, Due de, 171 
DinOj Duchesse de, 171 
Dobyns, Fletcher, 1 79 
Doggett, Kate Newell, 46 
Dorsey, Edward, 14 
Dorsey, Mary, 1 5 
Dorsey, Sarah Wyatt, 14 
Douglas, Stephen A., 20 
Doyle, Arthur Conan, 219 
Drake, John B., 4, 42 
Dreiser, Theodore, 242 
Drew, John, 162 
Drexel, Marguerite, 192 
Dudley, Countess of, 1 98 
Duffcrin and Ava, Marchioness of, 

204 

Duncan, Isadora, 188 
Dunne, Finley Peter, 160-161 
Du Pont, T. Coleman, 235 
Durand-Ruel, Paul, 148, 150, 151, 

153 

Duse, Eleanora, 198 
Duveen, Joseph, 147, 186 

Eckels, James H., 122 

Eddy, Arthur Jerome, 160 

Eddy, Augustus, 117 

Eddy, Mrs. Augustus, 1 1 7 

Eden, W. S., 39 

Edward VII of England, 20, 58, 59, 

91, 103, 104, 129, 164, 186, 

igoff.j 208, 209, 210, 211, 217- 

218, 219, 220, 221 
Edwards, A. B., 222, 224, 225, 227, 

2 3 2 < 234 

Elliott, Gertrude, 1 98 
Elliott, John, 153 
Ellsworth, James, 160 
Elsie, Lily, 198 
Endecott, John, 30 
Eulalia, Infanta of Spain, 86-91, 214 



Fairbanks, N. K., 117 

Farrar, Geraldine, 208 

Farwell, Charles B., 36, 38 

Farwell, Field & Company, 22 

Fawcett, Millicent, 6 1 

Ferber, Edna, 242 

Ferrier, Gabriel, 54, 1 20 

Field, Ethel, 118 

Field, Eugene, 94, 161 

Field, Marshall, 5, 8, 22-23, 27, 87, 

89, 104, 105, 108, 113-114, n6, 

118-119, 160, 183, 188 
Field, Marshall, II, 119 
Field, Mrs. Marshall, II, 190 
Field, Marshall, III, 190 
Field, Nannie, 112, 116, 119, 215 
Field, Palmer & Leiter, 22, 28 
Field, Mrs. Stanley, 184 
Fish, Stuyvesant, 1 29 
Fish, Mrs. Stuyvesant, 127, 131 
Fiske, Minnie Maddern, 162 
Fitch, Clyde, 188 
Flagler, Henry M,, 226 
Forster, E, M., 219 
Foy, Eddie, 185 
Franklin, G. W., 250-251 
Franz Joseph of Austria, 218 
Fremstad, Olive, 209 
French, Daniel Chester, 78 
Frick, Henry C., 186 
Frost, Charles S., 53 
Fuller, Henry B., 161 
Fuller, Melville W., 122 

Gadski, Madam, 188 

Gage, Lyman, 83, 107-108 

Gainsborough, Thomas, 242 

Galsworthy, John, 2 1 9 

Gardner, Mrs. Jack, 1 86 

Garland, Hamlin, 160, 242 

Gates, John W., 177 

George I of Greece, 164 

George V of England, 221 

Gerry, Mrs. Elbridge T., 128 

Gibbons, Cardinal, 79, 133, 145 

Glaspell, Susan, 242 

Goelct, May, 187 

Goelet, Robert, 2 1 1 

Goelet, Mrs. Robert, 2 1 1 

Goncourt, Edmond de, 1 49 

Gorman, J. C., 6, n 

Gould, Anna, 1 7 1 

Grant, Jesse, 57 

Grant, Julia, see Cantacuz&ne, Julia 
Grant 

Grant, Frederick Dent, 33, 34-35, 36, 
48, 50, 56, 63, 64, 96, 135, 141, 
163, 170, 175, 183, 198, 218 



2J2 



Index 



Grant, Ida Honore, 14, 21, 28, 33- 
34, 35, 47~48, 50, 56, 63, 64, 
96, 97, 122, 135, 141, 146, 150, 
162, 163, 170, 175, 182, 183, 
230, 244, 252 

Grant, Nellie, 34, 48, 57, 135, *43 

Grant, Ulysses S., 21, 24, 33, 34, 35, 
47, 48-49, 56-57, 126, 141, 170 

Grant, Mrs. Ulysses S., 34, 36, 47-48, 
49* 57, 69, no, 143, 144, 163, 
182, 183 

Grant, Ulysses S., II, "Buck," 35- 
36, 57 

Grant, Ulysses S., Ill, 50, 63, 144 

Grazioli, Duchess, 141 

Greece, Queen of, 123 

Gregory, Addie Hibbard, 92, 114 

Guenther, F. H., 239, 250 

Guenther, Mrs. F, H., 248 

Guthrie, James, 1 1 

Haggard, Rider, 219 

Hahn, Reynaldo, 210 

Haldane, R. B., 203 

Hale, William Gardner, 1 78 

Hallowell, Sara T., 63, 76, 150-152, 

rr 153-154, 156 

Halton, Jack, 224 

Halton, Joseph, 234 

Hamilton, Alice, 46 

Hand, Johnny, 43 

Hardinge, Sir Charles, 202 

Hardinge, Lady, 202 

Hardy, Lady Duffus, 39 

Hardy, Thomas, 219 

Harlan, John Marshall, 122 

Harrison, Benjamin, 38, 56, 73 

Harrison, Carter H., 86, 90, 98-99 

Harrison, Mrs. Carter H., 46, 113, 

138, 181-182, 245 
Harrison, Mrs. Russell, 73 
Harvey, Mrs. T. W., 188 
Havemeyer, Mrs. H. O., 75, 150, 186 
Hay, John, 138 

Hayden, Sophia G., 74-75, 77 
Hayes, Laura, 136 
Haymarket riot, 57, 106 
Healy, George P. A., 54, 72-73 
Heilbronner, Raoul., 186 
Hengelmuller, Baron, 1 45- 1 46 
Hengelrnuller, Baroness, 145 
Henrotin, Mrs. Charles, 93, 123, 188 
Henry, Prince of Prussia, 14.5 
Henry of Pless, Princess, 204 
Herrick, Robert, 161, 242 
Hichens, Robert, 219 
Higinbotham, Harlow N., 83, 86, 

117-118, 216 



Hofmann, Josef, 161 
Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 130 
Honore, Adrian C,, 14, 145, 183, 

187^224, 230, 250, 252 
Honore, Benjamin F., 14, 230 
Honore, Eliza J. Carr, 2, 11-12, 13- 

14, 15, 16, 29, 30-31, 33, 146, 

172, 183, 189 
Honore*, Francis, 14 
Honore, Francis, Jr., 1 4 
Honore", Henry Hamilton, 2, 13-14, 

14-15, 1 8, 26, 29, 30-31, 33, 80, 

97, 144, 183, 189, 222, 226, 230, 

24,9 
Honore, Henry Hamilton, Jr., 14, 43, 

250 

Honore, Ida, see Grant, Ida Honore 
Honore", Jean Antoine, 14 
Honor6, Laura, 230 
Honor 6, Lockwood, 14, 250, 252 
Honore", Mary Ann, 14 
Honore", Matilda Lockwood, 14 
Honor6, Nathaniel, 14, 230, 252 
Hooker, Isabella Beecher, 67-68 
Howe, Julia Ward, 68, 87, 89, 130, 

!53 

Howe, Maud Elliott, 87 
Hunt, Richard Morris, 75, 77-78, 

119, 120, 130 

Huntington, Henry E., 186, 242 
Hutchinson, Charles L., 63, in, 

158-159, 1 60, 251 

Inglis, James S., 154 
Iroquois Theater fire, 185 
Irving, Henry, 162, 198 
Iselin, C. Oliver, 1 70 
Iselin, Mrs. C. Oliver, 170 

Jackson, Huntington, 1 1 7 
James, Henry, 130, 153 
Japan, Empress of, 65 
Jenney, William Le Baron, 77 
Jerome, Jennie, 204 
Jeune, Lady, 6 1 
Johnson, Andrew, 23 
Jones, Lawrence, 225 

Kauffmann, Angelica, 197 

Keith, Mrs. Walter, 184 

Kelley, Florence, 46 

Kemble, Fanny, 34 

Keppel, Mrs. George, 194-1 95, 199 

209, 2l8, 220, 221 

Kerfoot, S. H., 8 
Kimball, W .W., x 16-117, 160 
Kimball, Mrs. W. W., 116-117, 160, 
1 88 



Index 



273 



Kinsley, H. M., 31 

Kipling, Rudyard, 38, 39-40, 219 

Knutsford, Lady, 61 

Kohlsaat, Herman H., 217, 251 

Kyril, Grand Duke, 1 42 

Lafayette, Marquis de, 14 

La Fayette, Gomte de, 1 45 

La Fronde, 168 

La Grange, Baroness de, 171 

Lament, Daniel S., 122 

Langtry, Lily, 162, 169-170, 210 

Lathrop, Julia, 46 

Leavitt, Charles Wcllford, 248 

Lebaudy, Pierre, 186 

Lehr, Harry, 127 

Leiter, Daisy, 1 18 

Leiter, Levi Z., 5, 8, 22, 23, 27 

Leiter, Mrs. Levi Z., 131 

Leiter, Mary, 118, 204 

Leiter, Nancy, 1 1 8 

Lcland, Charles, 43 

Leo XIII, Pope, 141 

Lincoln, Abraham, 20, 21, 22, 59, 

105, 114, 123 
Lincoln, Robert Todd, 59, 87, in, 

114 

Lind, Jenny, i 2 
Lindsay, Vachel, 242 
Lindsay, William, 1 2 1 
Lipton, Thomas, 192 
Lockwood, Mary, 68, 93 
Logan, Mrs. John A., 62, 67, 68, 71, 

93-94, 1 66, 167, 171 
Londonderry, Lady, 205 
Lord, J, H., 224, 225, 226 
Lorillard, Mrs. Pierre, 1 70 
Lynn, Bridget (Bridey) Mullarkey, 

182-183 

Mac Arthur, Charles, 216 
MacDowell, Edward A., 161 
Mackay, Clarence H., 180, 191 
Mackay, Mrs. John W., 64, 170, 177, 

x87 

MacMonnics, Frederick, 63, 76, 78 
MacMonnies, Mary Fairchild, 63, 

76 

MacVeagh, Franklin, 44, in, 116 
MacVeagh, Mrs. Franklin, 116, 188 
Manchester, Duchess of, 129, 192- 

!93 205, 210 
Mandcville, Viscount, 1 93 
Manet, Edouard, 154 
Mansfield, Richard, 162, 188 
Mantell, Robert, 162 
Margherita of Italy, 64, 83, 132, 

133, 137, 169 



Maria Theresa, Archduchess of Aus 
tria, 73, 97 
Marie Henriette of Belgium, 64, 

91, 172, 1 73 if. 
Maryborough, Duchess of, 129, 191, 

204, 219 
Marshall Field & Company, 10, 

16 ff., 22-23, 27, 44, 118-119 
Martin, Bradley, 192, 204 
Martin, Mrs, Bradley, 64, 138, 192 
Martin, Cornelia, 204 
Martin, Riccardo, 208 
Martin, Thomas Reed, 228 
Mary of England, 221 
Masters, Edgar Lee, 242 
Matisse, Henri, 241 
May, Princess of England, 58 
McAllister, Ward, in, 127, 134-135 
McCormick, Cyrus H., 7, 36, 44, 83, 

xr6, i20 3 211 
McCormick, Mrs. Cyrus H., 116, 

1 88 

McCormick, Elizabeth, 188 
McCormick, Mrs. Harold F. (Edith 

Rockefeller), 215 
McCullough, John, 162 
McDonnell, Schomberg K., 213, 214 
McDowell, Mary, 46 
McGrath, J. J., 105 
McKee, Mrs. J. R., 73 
McKim, Charles F., 77 
McKinley, William, 56, 124, 145, 

164 

McVicker, James H., 52 
Mead, William R., 77 
Medill, Joseph, 5, 8, 20, 98, 105, 

116, 1 17, 122 
Medill, Mrs. Joseph, 116 
Melba, Madam, 161, 210 
Mellon, Andrew, 186 
Merritt, General, 1 1 1 
Metternich, Mme de, 169 
Metternich, Princess, 64 
Miles, Nelson A., 57, 79, 87 
Mill, John Stuart, 1 15 
Miller, Gertie, 1 98 
Millet, J. F., 156 
Milliken, H. O., 248 
Minwegen, Alderman, 180 
Mitchell, John H. 3 171 
Mitchell, Mattie, 1 7 1 
Mitchell, S. Weir, no 
Modjeska, Helen, 38, 162 
Monet, Claude, 148, 149, 156, 230 
Monroe, Harriet, 242 
Montesquieu, Comte de, 149 
Moody, Dwight L., 105-106 
Moody, William V., 161 



214 



Index 



Morgan, J. P., 164, 186 
Morland, Charles, 187 
Mountbatten, Lady, 195 
Munster, Earl of, 212 
Muratore, Lucien, 242 
Murphy., Garrett "Dink," 232 
Murray, Mrs. Ronald Graham, 204 

Nevin, Robert J., 141, 143, 144 
Newman, John Philip, 57 
Nicholas II of Russia, 196, 218 
Nickerson, Samuel M., 120 
Nightingale, Florence, 177 
Nilsson, Christine, 161 
Nordica, Lillian, 64., 1 6 1 
Normannia, 65 

O Brien, John, 1 70 
Oelrichs, Mrs. Hermann, 129 
Ogden, William B., 54, 105 
O Leary, Catherine, 2 
Olmsted, Frederick L., 77 
Orloff, Prince, 202 
Orloff, Princess, 169 
Owen, Phillip, 59, 159 

Pach, Walter, 241 
Paderewski, Ignace, 161, 210 
Paget, Mrs. Arthur (later Lady) , 97, 

129, 191, 204, 210 
Palmer, Bertha, 252 
Palmer, Bertha Honore 

and ambassadorship, 121-122 
and art, 75-7$, 147 ff., 186-187, 

229-230, 241-242 
at Bar Harbor, 109-1 1 1 
and Charity Ball, 28, 57, 111-1125 

179, 185, 188, 215-216, 217 
and Columbian Exposition, 59$., 

82 ff. 

death of, 250-251 
early days of, 10-15, 18-25, 2 9 
in Europe, 32, 58 #., 108-109, 123, 
I 3%ff; 164^ 190 ff., 206-211, 
217-221 
and fashion, 35, 40, 62, 168-169, 

199 

in Florida, 222 ff. 

and golf, 135, 193, 199 

as hostess, 56, 69, 94, iooff., 113- 
117, 132-134, 145-146, 165, 
179-180, 197, 206-211, 215 

jewels of, 32, 49, 62, 79, 115, 126, 
128, 136-138, 191, 245 

and Legion of Honor, 177 

marriage of, 29-31 

and music, n, 18-19, 24~25 3 64 

and Palmer Castle, 53-56 



Palmer, Bertha Honor (Continued) 
and politics, 20-21, 23-24, 48-49, 

57, 121-124, 178-181 
and social work, 44 ff., 101 ff. 
and suffragists, 45, 60-6 1, 67-68, 

74, 92, 203 

and temperance, 45, 102-103 
and women s rights, 45-47, 

165-166 
Palmer, Gordon, 252 
Palmer, Grace Greenway Brown, 
183-184, 188, 216, 233, 236, 
252 

Palmer, Honore", 33, 35, 36, 48, 49, 
50-51, 52 3 55, 97, 124, 126, 
135, 138, 139, 140, 143, 145, 
158, 178-181, 183, 184-185, 
1 88, 198, 199-200, 216-217, 
230, 233, 236, 246, 251-252 
Palmer, Honore", II, 232, 246-247, 

252 

Palmer, Pauline, 252 
Palmer, Pauline Kohlsaat, 158, 217, 

232, 252 
Palmer, Potter 
and art, 63, 150$. 
at Bar Harbor, 109-1 10 
and Chicago fire, 6-7, 8-9 
courtship of, 25-26, 29-30 
death of, 181-183 
early life of, 10, 17, 30 
and hotel, see Palmer House 
and social life, 114-117, 130-131 
store of, 1 6- 1 8, 22-23; see also 

Marshall Field & Company 
See also Palmer, Bertha Honore 
Palmer, Potter, II, 40, 48, 49, 50-51, 
52, 55, 97, 126, 138, 140, 141, 
145, 157, 158, 181, 187, 198, 
199, 200, 217, 230, 232, 246, 
251-252 

Palmer, Potter, III, 232, 252 
Palmer, Potter D Orsay, 188, 217, 

232, 246, 252 
Palmer, Walter, 30 
Palmer Castle, 56 

Palmer House, i, 4, 9, 28, 29, 32, 
. 33, 36, 37tf., 52, 102-103, 251 
Pans Exposition, 59, 61 
Parkhurst, Emmeline, 203 
Patti, Adelina, 161 
Pavlova, Anna, 210 
Peck, Ferdinand W., 44, 52, 83, 166 
Peck, Mrs. Ferdinand W., 166 
Peter of Serbia, 2 1 2 
Pickard, Paul, 181 
Pilar, Maria de, 84 
Pinero, Arthur W., 198 



Index 



215 



Pissarro, Camille, 148, 149, 154, 157 

Poiret, Paul, 243 

Poole, Ernest, 115, 138 

Pourtales, Countess de, 171 

Porter, Horace, 1 70 

Potter, Henry Codman, 143, 144 

Potter, Mrs. James Brown, 162 

Prendergast, Patrick, 98 

Prentice, William F., 237-238, 239- 

240 

Prince of Wales, see Edward VII 
Proust, Antoine, 62, 72, 149 
Pulitzer, Joseph, no 
Pullman, George M., 13, 44, 51, 87, 

105, 107, 108, 188 
Puvis de Chavanncs, Pierre, 154 

RafFaelli, Jean Frangois, 149, 154, 

186, 230 

Ralph, Julian, i o i 
Rehan, Ada, 162 
Reid, Jean, 190 
Reid, Whitelaw, 190, 192, 197, 209, 

210, 220 

Reid, Mrs. Whitelaw, 197, 209, 210 
Renoir, P. A., 148, 154, 155 
Rice, Mrs. Hamilton, 245 
Rich, Daniel Catton, 147-148 
Richmond, Duke of, 1 90 
Ringling brothers, 247 
Ripon, Marchioness of, 169 
Roberts, Frank, 233-234 
Roberts-Austen, Mrs., 84 
Roche, Jules, 62 
Rochefoucauld, Due de la, 145 
Rochefoucauld, Duchesse de la, 171 
Rockefeller, John D., 215 
Rohan Chabot, Countess de, 171 
Ronald, Mrs., 64 

Roosevelt, Theodore, 218, 220, 221 
Root, Elihu, 145 
Root, John Wellborn, 77 
Roseberry, Lord, 190 
Rosenwald, Julius, 188 
Rothschild, Albert, 2 1 0-2 1 1 
Rothschild, Ferdinand, 210-311 
Rothschild, Henri de, 186 
Roxburgh, Duchess of, 129, 187 
Rumania, Queen of, 73 
Runnells, John S., 251 
Runyon, Theodore, 121, 122 
Russell, Lillian, 162 
Russia, Empress of, 65, 84, 123 
Ryerson, Martin A., 44, 155, 159, 

1 60, 251 

Sadanaru Fushimi, Prince of Japan, 



Saint-Gaudens, Augustus, 74, 78 
Saint-Simon, Louis de, 184 
Salisbury, Lord, 59, 2 1 3 
Salisbury, Marchioness of, 61 
Sampson, Adele, 171 
Sandburg, Carl, 242 
Sargent, John Singer, 130 
Sartoris, Algernon, 34, 143 
Sartoris, Algernon, II, 135 
Sartoris, Nellie Grant, 34 
Saunders, V. A., 236 
Schahowskoy, Princess, 84 
Schreiner, Olive, 202 
Schwartz, Charles, 1 1 7 
Seilliere, Baroness de, 1 70 
Self ridge, Harry Gordon, 118-119 
Sembrich, Marcella, 188 
Seward, William H., 20 
Shaw, Anna Howard, 74 
Shaw, George Bernard, 192, 198, 

219 

Shedd, John G., 118-119 
Shepard, Henry M., 106-107 
Shepard, Mrs. Henry M. 3 1 14, 188 
Sheridan, Philip H., 34, 35, 57 
Sherman, William Tecumseh, 49, 57 
Siam, Queen of, 84 
Siegfried, Jules, 62 
Simon, Jules, 62 
Sisley, Alfred, 148, 154 
Skinner, Otis, 162 
Smith, Benjamin K., 150 
Smith, F. Hopkinson, 87 
Smith, Henry H., 94 
Somerset, Lady Henry, 61 
Sothern, Edward H., 162 
Southerland, Duchess of, 220 
Soveral, Marquis de, 1 95 
Spencer, Albert, 153, 154 
Spencer, Mrs. John Thompson, 133 
Stafford, Countess of, 218 
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, 62 
Stanton, Theodore, 62-63, 72, 87 
Stead, W. T., 103-104, 105, 145, 

219-220, 243 

Stevens, Frederic William, 171 
Stevens, Paran, 87 
Stevens, Mrs. Paran, 129, 204 
Stevenson, Adlai E. (I), 87, 89, 121, 

122 

Stevenson, Letitia Green, 121 
Stewart, A. T., 18 
Stewart, Anita, 1 92 
Stone, James S., 251 
Stotesbury, E. T., 191 
Straff ord, Earl of, 205 
Street, Julian, 120 
Suffolk, Earl of, 1 1 8 



Index 



Suffragists, 45, 60-61, 67-68, 74, 92, 

203 

Sullivan, Louis H., 77 
Sullivan, Margaret F., 74 
Sumner, W. A., 224 
Suriya, Phra Linchee, 84 
Sutherland, Millicent, Duchess of, 

204 

Sweeney, J. S., 31 
Swift, Gustavus, 51 
Swinburne, Algernon C., 219 

Taft, Loredo, 78 

Talimadge, Thomas, 56 

Talleyrand-Perigord, Marquis de, 171 

Teck, Duchess of, 58 

Teck, Duke of, 58 

Terry, Ellen, 162, 198 

Thaw, Harry K., 170, 186 

Thenier, Mile, 64 

Thomas, Theodore, 4, 84, 161, 

1 88 

Thompson, Frank, 154 
Thorne, Mrs. Oakleigh L., 252 
Titanic, 243 

Tosti, Francesco Paolo, 198 
Tree, Arthur M., 118 
Tree, Ethel Field, 118 
Tree, Herbert Beerbohm, 198 
Tree, Lambert, 1 1 1, 1 79 
Turin, Prince of, 133 
Tuttle, Arthur, 234 
Tuttle, F.B., 251 
Twain, Mark, 49, 192 

Uhl, Edwin F., 122 

Vanderbilt, Alfred G., 191 
Vanderbilt, Consuelo, 191, 214 
Vanderbilt, Cornelius, 130 
Vanderbilt, George W., 137 
Vanderbilt, W. K., 186 
Veragua, Duchess of, 83, 84, 85-86 
Veragua, Duke of, 83 
Victor Emmanuel, 1 26 



Victoria of England, 8, 59, 60, 74, 

186, 196 
Voorhees, Daniel W., 122 



Waller, James B., 251 

Walpole, Hugh, 219 

Wanamaker, John, 186 

Wannieck, Leon, 244 

Ward, Mrs. Humphrey, 219 

Ward, Lady, 1 90 

Warwick, Countess of, 58, 103, 104, 

2O3, 220 

Webb, Charles W., 247 

Webb, John G. 3 225 

Webster, Richard, 59 

Wells, H.G., 219 

Wentworth, Mrs. Edward, 245 

Wentworth, John, 105 

Wentworth, Moses, 117 

West, Algernon, 2 1 2 

Westminster, Duchess of, 205 

Wharton, Edith, 130 

Whistler, J. A. M, 5 149 

White, Henry, 138-139 

White, Muriel, 192 

White, Sanford, 186 

Whitney, Harry Payne, 135, 186 

Wilde, Oscar, 198 

Wilhelm II of Germany, 195 

Willard, Frances E., 45, 61 

Woman s Building, 59 ff., 84-85 

Wood, Mrs. Arthur M., 252 

Wood, Henry, 59,87 

Woods, Ernest, 251 

Wordsworth, William, 219 

Worth, Charles, 169 

Worth, Jean, 169 

Wright, John, 28-29 

Wyatt, Edith, 242 

Yerkes, Charles T., 52, 80, 105, 160, 

1 88 
Yves-Guyot, Mme, 61 

Zorn, Anders L., 87, 96, 145 



(continued from front flap) 

working woman on all occasions and 
campaigned for an improvement in her 
status. Shop girls, politicians, reformers, 
poets and artists, as well as Presidents and 
titled foreigners, were received at her 
turreted mansion on Lake Shore Drive. 
Palmer Castle became almost as legendary 
as its be jeweled hostess, who dominated 
Chicago society for a quarter of a cen 
tury and made the Chanty Ball a national 
institution. 

Always a pace setter, Mrs. Palmer 
startled Chicago when she introduced 
Impressionist art in the United States and 
gave receptions in a gallery hung with 
paintings by Monet, Renoir, Corot and 
Pissarro. 

Against the background of Chicago s 
amazing growth from the iSyo s to 1918, 
with the Great Fire and the World s Ex 
position as highlights, she is seen as wife, 
mother, humanitarian and social strate 
gist; as the Middle Westerner who 
crashed the gates of Newport at the turn 
of the century; as a favorite at the court 
of King Edward VII; as a shrewd busi 
ness woman who doubled her husband s 
fortune after his death; as a farmer and 
rancher at Sarasota in the last years of 
her life. 

Silhouette in Diamonds presents a fas 
cinating portrait of an era of explosive 
energy and a woman whose vitality 
matched the times. 



No. 9890A 




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